OXFORD • Ole Miss built an entire promotional campaign around the Mississippi history and connections of former coach Matt Luke.
Now “Mississippi Made” may not apply as much, and those marketing folks may need to get cracking again.
New Rebels coach Lane Kiffin lost a highly-ranked Mississippi prospect in Horn Lake defensive tackle Josaih Hayes.
But as Kiffin outlined his plan for a strong finish on the back end of the 2020 class he emphasized the importance of relationship building and winning recruiting battles regardless of area codes.
“We want to sign the best players to win games. Now if it comes down to where they’re equal we’re going to choose the in-state player, but we’ve got great players that want to come here. Nationally programs that win for a long period of time recruit nationally.”
Hayes committed to Ole Miss in June but chose to reopen his recruitment in late October more than a month before the firing of former coach Matt Luke. Even then Ole Miss coaches felt good about their standing with Hayes, a four-star prospect and the No. 21 defensive tackle according to the 247Sports composite list.
His Horn Lake teammate linebacker Jakivuan Brown did sign with Ole Miss on Wednesday, as did Baton Rouge defensive tackle DeSanto Rollins.
Ole Miss is losing three seniors – Benito Jones, Josiah Coatney and Austrian Robinson – from what was a very productive defensive front in 2019.
Oxford tight end J.J. Pegues told media at his announcement ceremony that he “didn’t get a chance” to speak with Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin.
Kiffin had a different understanding of events.
“We tried everything possible. I talked to his coach. He tried to put him on the phone, but he said he wasn’t interested, that he’d already made a decision,” Kiffin said.
Kiffin also said efforts were made to get Pegues to campus for a visit but that Pegues didn’t show up.
“We can only do what the rules allow.”
While the defensive front may require continued attention the Rebels did add to the offensive line with Heritage Academy’s Eli Acker and Tobias Bruan, who played most of his career in Germany before playing last year at a prep school in Connecticut.
Braun was being recruited by new offensive line coach Randy Clements to Florida State before Clements was hired to Kiffin’s Ole Miss staff this week.
Two more tackles remain committed in Robert Scott of Conway, Arkansas, and Luke Shouse of Brentwood, Tennessee.