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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Signing Day Blog: A live look at OM’s 2014 class

Well Merry National Signing Day to everyone. Or maybe it’s better to say Happy National Signing Day. Either way it’s a national holiday for many college football fans, especially those living in the Southeast. 

Ole Miss currently has 23 players that have either verbally pledged to Ole Miss heading into the day or already signed and are currently enrolled. Today is the first day any of the high school prospects, and junior college players that didn’t enroll for the spring semester, to sign the official scholarship and binding agreements to play at Ole Miss, or any other school they wish to.

There are some players that have yet to commit that Ole Miss has been pursuing and we will find out where they are headed this morning. Because Ole Miss doesn’t just recruit the state of Mississippi, we have some players that will make choices ahead of us in the Eastern time zone.

Isaiah McKenzie, the speedy wide receiver/kick returner from American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla., is set to make his choice public this morning at 7:15. The 5-foot-8, 170-pound McKenzie is down to Ole Miss, Virginia Tech and possibly Georgia. The Bulldogs, who have garnered a commitment from McKenzie’s teammate, RB Sony Michel, offered a scholarship Monday. Florida has also offered and McKenzie visited UF the week before he came to Oxford on Jan. 24-26, but two recruiting analysts I talked with from Florida felt like it was coming down to Ole Miss and Va. Tech, who got McKenzie’s last official visit.

McKenzie finished the 2013 season with 35 catches for 823 yards and six touchdowns on kickoffs, according to the Miami Herald. Larry Blustein, a long-time analyst who has worked with the Herald for over 40 years, told me McKenzie was one of the top five kick returners he had ever covered in the South Florida prep ranks. That’s extremely high praise, trust me. Blustein also said McKenzie reminded him of Roscoe Parrish, while his coach, Mike Rumph, compared him to Santana Moss. Both have had long careers in the NFL. We shall see where the speedster ends up, and early.

Another ceremony Ole Miss fans will want to keep up with comes from the state of Louisiana where John Curtis standouts, WR Malachi Dupre and CB Terrence Alexander, will make their choices public. The ceremony will begin at 9:35 this morning I’m told. There is a portion of recruiting analysts that believe Dupre (6-3, 200) will stay home and play for LSU. Based on my interview with his coach, J.T. Curtis, during the fall, I agree with that. Curtis said Dupre is very close to his family and they were very involved in his recruiting choices and visits etc.

There are some that feel Dupre, who is rated as either the top or second best wideout in the nation this year depending on which recruiting site you follow, will leave Louisiana and play for Florida State. Dupre did visit Ole Miss and appeared to have a good time. He is also coming off a visit to UCLA where he, too, appeared to have a good time. We will all find out shortly.

Alexander, meanwhile, is the more likely of the two from Curtis to choose Ole Miss. He came on an official visit this past month and the corner, who Curtis called a good tackler and coverage guy, sees the opportunity to play early at Ole Miss while also getting a good education. His other two finalists are Stanford and Notre Dame. Alexander (5-11, 178) had 32 tackles, 19 pass breakups and two interceptions this past year.

Follow me @oxfordeaglejd for even quicker updates on the class. I’m also co-hosting a live radio show here in Oxford that can be heard on 93.7 FM from 10 to noon. I’ll post the signees as they come in from Ole Miss below.

The first name on the board was Georgia (Lovejoy High) LB Demarquis Gates (6-2, 217), who ironically was one of the first verbal pledges for coach Hugh Freeze this past spring. Gates missed the 2013 season due to an injury but he made 90 tackles as a junior and was rated as the 26th best player in the state of Georgia by Rivals.com.

Gates was followed by another fellow Georgian, CB Kendarius Webster. The 5-11 speedster from Stockbridge High was named Defensive Player of the Year in 4A this past year. He chose the Rebels over Florida State and Georgia, among others.

The first player from Mississippi to send in his official paperwork was Greenwood tight end Sammie Epps, who was named the Offensive MVP of the annual Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Classic.

Memphis place-kicker Gary Wunderlich was in right behind Epps. Wunderlich is rated as the nation’s top prep kicker.

Purvis WR Markell Pack, a consensus four-star recruit, was up next for the Rebels. Pack, once committed to Florida State, gives Freeze yet another speedy weapon to use in the passing game.

Jackson Callaway standouts, WR Dayall Harris and OG Rod Taylor, have signed, according to Ole Miss. Taylor is the second-ranked offensive guard in the nation, while Harris caught 91 passes during his career as a Charger. Callaway finished the year with a 14-1 record.

Running back Akeem Judd, who played the past two seasons, is signed, giving Freeze a bigger body (6-0, 220) to use in the rushing attack. Fahn Cooper, a junior college offensive lineman from DuPage College in Illinois, signed with Ole Miss. He was scheduled to have already been on campus but did not meet the 4-2-4 transfer requirements of the NCAA. Cooper (6-5, 315) is expected to add depth at the tackle spot once he arrives in Oxford.

Lafayette’s own D.K. Buford signed with the Rebels shortly before 8 this morning. Buford, a member of this year’s EAGLE All-Area team, played running back at LHS but has the speed to be a wideout and kick returner at Ole Miss.

A good surprise for the Rebels came just before 8:30 when Haines City, Fla., athlete D.J. Law picked Ole Miss over Utah and Central Florida. The speedster gives the Rebels another player with return ability as well as a corner, a position of need.

Georiga defensive lineman Chris Williams was the latest player to be announced by Ole Miss. Williams (6-1, 288) is one of the top-rated players in the state of Georgia. (February 5, 2014)

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