If the Lane Kiffin name is going to carry a lot of weight in recruiting, that didn’t show up on early signing day.
Nor should it have been reasonably expected.
Most folks who follow college football, and that would include recruits, have some knowledge or understanding of Kiffin’s high-profile career.
What he delivered on his first signing day as Ole Miss head coach, with no apologies, was a 12-man class of three-star prospects.
By the time signing day rolled around, Kiffin had been the Ole Miss coach for only 11 days.
Every coach will tell you recruiting is about relationships. Kiffin faced the unenviable task of evaluating fast a previous staff’s class of recruits, deciding whether they did or did not fit now, then using some members of that staff who may not be rehired – or his own staff who had just been hired – to help him recruit.
When official visits were going on last weekend, he was trying to attract players while he could barely point them to the restroom.
So the Kiffin name didn’t really resonate on the early signing day. Perhaps it could have a little more as Kiffin indicated there were players who wanted to sign on Wednesday … but were told to wait until February so those relationships could be strengthened.
“Hey, we have to get to know you first,” Kiffin said.
In the old days Kiffin says he would have probably handled that differently “worried about where our (recruiting) rankings were.”
It’s the new and improved Kiffin, the more mature Kiffin, that Ole Miss AD Keith Carter is banking on to be a big success with the Rebels. Going slow in recruiting where the world screams “fast, fast, fast,” is a conservative strategy but the right call when you’re 11 days on the job.
It was not surprising to hear Kiffin at his signing day presser hit on tones like “halftime” of the 2020 class and to point out that he and a staff he hopes to be complete soon will be deeper into relationships before the next signing date of Feb. 5.
There are six in the commitment class who chose not to sign early. There will be others who aren’t in the class right now that will appear, Kiffin says.
The Rebels’ most impactful newcomers in 2019 – QB John Rhys Plumlee, RB Jerrion Ealy, LB Lakia Henry – were late-period signees, a point of reference for Ole Miss fans that good things can indeed come after recruiting “halftime.”