COLUMN: Ole Miss’ success on the recruiting trail isn’t exclusively tracked by fans. Current verbal commitments for the 2013 football recruiting class are keeping up with what coach Hugh Freeze and his staff are achieving in the days leading up to National Signing Day on Feb. 6, 2013.
One of those commits that is interested in how the rest of the class shakes out is Grenada athlete Trey Bledsoe (6-foot-2, 185 pounds). Bledsoe chose to play for the Rebels well before the 2012 season started, before Freeze’s offense started to make stars out of Bo Wallace — this year’s Conerly Trophy Award winner — and wide receiver Donte Moncrief, Wallace’s main target this season.
Bledsoe, who is now playing basketball for the Chargers, is one of 22 verbal pledges for the upcoming class, a class that could garner up to 30 new players for a roster that was able to produce a 6-6 regular season.
“It makes me very excited. I see some very good recruits coming in and I think we’re going to have a good team next year and the next few years,” Bledsoe said after Grenada’s game with Lafayette last Saturday in the LHS gym. “I’m keeping up with (Antonio) Conner and hoping that (Robert) Nkemdiche comes to play with us, too. I talk with Conner and (Ashton) Shumpert most of the time. Conner, he keeps saying Alabama and Ole Miss. I’m hoping he comes to Ole Miss.”
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Conner, of course, is the standout safety from South Panola, which defeated the Chargers 15-8 during the regular season. Conner, who is preparing to play in the 26th annual Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Classic in Montgomery, Ala., this Saturday, finished the year with 74 tackles, three interceptions and 19 passes defended. Ole Miss is just one of the many schools who have offered him and several recruiting analysts believe he will ultimately sign with Ole Miss despite him not publicly favoring one school over another. Nkemdiche (6-5, 250) is the standout defensive end from Grayson High School in Loganville, Ga. He is rated as the top player in the nation by Rivals.com, Scout.com and 24/7 Sports. He is the brother of current Ole Miss linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, who has more than hinted this season that the Rebels will garner his LOI on signing day.
Bledsoe wasn’t chosen to play in the MS-AL game, but he will be a member of the North squad in the annual Bernard Blackwell All-Star game that is played in Gulfport on Dec. 22.
Bledsoe, who said he is fully recovered from a broken collarbone that kept him out of half of the season, has been working out getting ready for the game when he isn’t practicing or playing basketball.
“I did a lot of therapy, I did a lot of running and lifting weights trying to get back in shape and get my arm back to 100 percent. I’m 100 percent right now,” Bledsoe said. “I’m getting ready for the North-South All-Star game. I’m doing a lot of different drills for that with teammates. I’m trying to drill with my quarterback (Payne Horan) too because he’s playing with me.”
An official visit to Ole Miss will happen next month for Bledsoe, who said he just hosted wide receivers coach Grant Heard.
“Coach Heard came by to see me (Nov. 30). I think one of the other coaches are coming to see me this week too. Coach Heard keeps telling me to work hard and to keep doing my drills and get faster,” said Bledsoe, who could also play safety for the Rebels in the future. “Coach Heard is saying wide receiver but on the list they have me as an athlete. Me, I just want to play, I want to get on the field.”
There are a number of top-rated players on both rosters this year. Mississippi has one verbal pledge for the Rebels in Eupora wide receiver Derrick Jones (6-3, 185). Mississippi State has six verbal pledges in West Bolivar running back Kailo Moore (5-10, 185), Starkville defensive back Gabe Myles (6-0, 185), Houston defensive end Chris Jones (6-6, 248), Columbus offensive lineman Jake Thomas (6-5, 300), Hollandale-Simmons offensive lineman Kent Flowers (6-5, 300) and South Panola offensive lineman Deon Mix (6-5, 315).
Moore originally pledged to the Rebels when Houston Nutt was the coach and he is still being actively recruited by both football staffs as well as by both track programs (Moore won the 100- and 200-meter sprints at the MHSAA Class 2A state meet). Because of Moore’s immense speed, he is being touted as an all-around offensive threat, a player who could not only see time at running back, but also a slot wide receiver and return specialist.
Alabama has one verbal pledge for the Rebels in Florence linebacker Rashawn Smith (6-3, 205). Gadsden City linebacker Finesse Middleton (6-1, 245) had been with the Rebels most of the fall before recently de-committing for Louisville. (December 12, 2012, Page 3B)