Wednesday, February 6, was far more than the annual National Signing Day.
For coach Hugh Freeze and his Ole Miss football program, February 6 was a day of reckoning. And on that day, beginning at the crack of dawn on the East Coast and continuing throughout, Freeze and his staff never blinked, never feared their big day.
Instead, they, along with the rest of Rebels Nation, celebrated. A lot.
The No. 1-overall player in the entire nation, Robert Nkemdiche, kicked it all off for Ole Miss, who opened the day outside of the top 10 in the recruiting rankings and ended it inside the top five. Nkemdiche’s older brother, Denzel, was a star for the Rebels as a redshirt freshman linebacker in 2012. He spent the year doing two things: Leading the team in tackles with 82 and talking to his younger brother about joining him in Oxford.
Younger bro’s decision was not without drama, as he made a late official visit to LSU. However, when it came time to sport the tradition cap of choice, there was no other choice for a member of the Nkemdiche clan.
Robert was all smiles, and so was the entire Ole Miss coaching staff. Those smiles only grew brighter as the dominoes continued to fall throughout the late morning on Wednesday.
Following Nkemdiche to Oxford first was Austin Golson. Golson is a 6-foot-6, 284-pound mammoth of a young man who had spent the last two years committed to Florida State. However, at the 11th hour, the Alabama native chose to fax in his letter of intent to Ole Miss. He is the 52nd-ranked player in the entire nation and the No. 3 offensive tackle nationally.
However, Golson is not even the best tackle to head to Oxford. Laremy Tunsil, the nation’s No. 1-rated player at the position, signed his letter of intent soon after Golson to Ole Miss. Tunsil is the 14th-best player in the entire nation, and at 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds, he has the potential to see the field right away.
In a matter of a few hours, coach Freeze went from a second-year coach with an improving team to a program with the immense expectations to win immediately. With all of the talent his staff has brought in to compliment several fantastic players already on the roster, the pressure is going to be immense.
But pressure makes diamonds, and with both Golson and Tunsil facing a talent the likes of Nkemdiche in practice every single day, Ole Miss’ gameplay might just be sparkling in 2013.