COLUMN: Veteran football recruiting analyst Tom Lemming knew Ole Miss was recruiting differently and on a more national scale back in the spring when standout players from the Chicago area listed offers from the Rebels and interest in new coach Hugh Freeze. Lemming, the pioneer of high school recruiting and current analyst for CBS Sports Network, closely follows prospects from Illinois since he resides in the Chicago area.
He knows how much talent the state produces — the metropolitan area has the second-most players in the NFL currently behind Los Angeles and just ahead of places such as Dallas and Miami — and that several of the top players in the state were also regarded as some of the top talent in the entire nation.
Ole Miss signed cornerback Anthony Standifer, a 6-foot-1, 178-pound cornerback rated as the 45th best player at his position by Rivals.com, a little more than a month after National Signing Day last year to help add depth in the secondary. Standifer played at Crete’s Monee High School and was rated as the 13th-best player in Illinois. He was the elder teammate of wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, a 6-3, 183-pound four-star standout who caught 75 passes last season and remains uncommitted currently.
Signing a player to start a pipeline to a standout high school or area is not uncommon for coaches to attempt and this year Ole Miss is hoping that a connection to Illinois, and a school like Dallas’ Skyline High where standout quarterback Devante Kincade just committed from, will pay off.
Lemming has visited Skyline many times over the years due to the amount of talent the school routinely produces. He said recruiting players from the Dallas area, with Texas A&M entering the SEC, makes complete sense, especially since players from Texas have no problem leaving the state to play if it’s the right opportunity.
“Everybody at that school can run. It’s sort of like Glenville in Ohio, everybody on the team is fast. Skyline is able to get a lot of the top kids from the south side of the Dallas area like Carter High School used to do back in the 80’s. Now Skyline is doing it. They’re getting a lot of the top talent,” Lemming said. “Not only is (Kincade) a talent, but he could open the way for Ole Miss to start getting more talent out of that school. As soon as you get the pipeline going, it’s going to keep bouncing in there. That’s the big thing about getting a good player from a real productive school. He’s not only a talent but there is a good number of players that get Division I scholarships out of Skyline. Dallas is a great area for talent, in fact it’s one of the top four or five for talent in all of the country and really from Dallas to Oxford, it’s not that far.”
To give an idea of just how loaded Skyline is this year, four players appear on the Rivals.com preseason Top 100 list. Last year, Skyline advanced to the semifinals of state playoffs before losing to another perennial power, Southlake Carroll, and it begins the year ranked as the No. 3 overall team in the nation. Oh, by the way, Skyline also has two of the highest rated defensive backs in the state for 2014 class on its roster.
Kincade said Friday that he was planning to help bring more top talent from his school and area to Ole Miss and that the players in the state think highly of the SEC.
“I’m going to bring something good to the table. There’s a shock coming to Oxford. Everybody loves the SEC. Most people want to go to the SEC,” Kincade said. “There’s going to be a lot of people from here that want to go there. It’s going to happen sooner or later.”
From Lemming’s perspective, it makes a lot of sense to recruit Texas, especially when Mississippi is considered to have less talent than usual this year.
“There really isn’t a whole lot of talent in the state of Mississippi (this year) and when there is, LSU and Alabama will invade it and Mississippi State will get their share too. If you go east, Alabama gets almost everyone they want and so does Auburn. If you go west, Texas is one of the top states in the country so you’re always going to find talent there,” Lemming said. “It’s affecting Nebraska in the reverse way. They’re no longer really wanted in the state of Texas by the recruits because nobody can ever see them play anywhere since they’re in the Big 10. I do think with Texas A&M coming in and with Missouri too, it’s going to help (Ole Miss) in a couple of different states. It’s going to open things up for them. They’re very close to Missouri and they should be hitting those states pretty hard.
“It gives them more territory to hit at a time where LSU dominates Louisiana and Alabama dominates Alabama and all the surrounding states. Now they not only have Mississippi and Memphis but Texas and Missouri to recruit in. I think that’s going to benefit them for the next several years.” (July 10, 2012, Page 7)