Ole Miss football recruiting has been on a June hot streak. The Rebels have landed 11 of their 16 commitments over the last few weeks, including two on Tuesday in four-star Eric Reed and three-star DeSanto Rollins. Is the recent run on pledges by design? What, exactly, does Ole Miss’ summer recruiting strategy entail? The Ole Miss Spirit recently caught up with assistant A.D. for player personnel Tyler Siskey, who heads up the Rebels’ recruiting efforts, to find out. Here’s the first of that two-part interview. CLICK HERE to listen to the full, 26-minute interview on Talk of Champions.
Spirit: It’s been a busy month for Ole Miss football recruiting. How has the recruiting calendar changed to where June is such an important month in building a class?
Siskey: “Since the NCAA kind of changed the recruiting calendar around with the early signing day and so on and so forth, June has become, arguably, the most important month in recruiting. It’s the time when we have our camps. We have to narrow our focus down and we try to get it inside of 50-75 names after camps. Also, getting commitments and strategically getting those kids to go public at certain times to create momentum. There’s always an endgame to get other guys to create momentum. We’re obviously working on a different number right now than is public. It’s a very, very busy month.”
Spirit: When’s the last time the staff was surprised when a recruit announced his commitment? Because it seems like the advent of social media and the controlled nature of recruiting itself has resulted in complete coordination to where the school always knows what’s coming, good or bad.
Siskey: “I’m personally never surprised, even on the hat days. I think it’s been six years since I’ve been surprised on one. So I’d say 99.9 percent of the time when a kid commits, we’ve known about it for a while. Social media has changed the perception of recruiting. Everybody has to have the graphics, everybody has to to have the video. That’s the mode of release. It used to be a press conference or TV. Those things have changed. I remember in 2013 when ESPN was in our facility for signing day. They said, ‘Hey, can you come into the room and act excited when this kid signs?’ It was on TV and we already had the NLI in our hand an hour and a half before that. I think it’s changed a bunch. Social media is part of our culture now.”
Spirit: What’s an Ole Miss summer camp like for a highly-recruited prospect?
Siskey: “Everything we do we have a purpose and a strategy for. I think it’s very important for us to have our camps early to get first crack at guys that are going to get on the camp circuit and blow up. I think that’s why we do them early so when we get a guy — and the state of Mississippi is full of these — who shows up and you don’t know a whole lot about him, late-developers. For the recruiting gurus, when you watch a kid that’s a junior, you’re watching a kid whose film is nine months old. These kids are 16 and 17-year-old kids. That’s when kids grow and they flourish. So they’ve got film, they’ve shown their athleticism, what they can do on film and what type of football player they are. But when they show up at camp nine months later, they’ve put on 30 pounds. They’ve dropped their 40 time. It gives us a chance at the late-developers first before they go. Guys like that, you’re trying to get a lead on and trying to sometimes get it over with before it gets started. Doing the camp early is a critical part to our strategy. We do roughly about 16 camps in 10 days. It’s a non-stop, organized chaos.”
Spirit: For a recruit who comes to camp looking for an offer, is there a checklist of some kind that he has to pass in order to receive one?
Siskey: “I think the number was roughly 4,500 kids that have been evaluated in the 2020 class. Let’s talk about guys who don’t have offers. Player X, there are reasons why he doesn’t have an offer. We put those reasons in the evaluation. We discuss those reasons in the evaluation as a staff. Everybody has independent thoughts, and we come together as a staff and come to a conclusion of what he needs to do in order to receive that offer. We know that going in. We know who’s coming. OK, Player X. It may be he needs to run sub-4.6 in the 40. It may be he has to show us he can come in and out of transition and breaks as a defensive back. It may have to be he has to show us he has good balance and body control as a receiver. We need to see his ball skills. Whatever it is, each kid has different things and we put them through those activities to demonstrate they’ve got those things.”
Spirit: How does it work in camp from a coordination standpoint to ensure the right eyeballs are getting on the right players?
Siskey: “There’s a saying, and I use it, that says trust your eyes. You can watch film all day long on a kid and have an opinion. You can tell really quickly when you see them in person and moving around in person if they’re a guy or not. I joke around, it’s kind of like when you watch horse races. When the horses come out in the paddock, the thoroughbreds, and they’re coming down the line, they have those horses that are kind of keeping them calm on the side. They’re horses, too, but there’s a huge difference between the thoroughbred and the horse on the side. This is not rocket science. When they come to camp, they either look like the guys we’re playing with or against or they don’t. That’s where you start. Do they look like the guys we’re playing with? Do they look like our guys? Do they look like LSU’s guys? Alabama’s guys? Do they look like that or do they not? That’s where you start. And when they go through the drills, can they play like those guys or can they not? When you see that and compare that live, you can make decisions fairly quickly and fairly easily. It’s not as hard as everybody thinks if you’ve been doing it for 20 years. It naturally occurs.”
Spirit: Ole Miss recruiting has been drastically overhauled under you, including the formation of the Shark Tank, which ensures Ole Miss never misses a prospect of potential interest. But as far as recruiting sites are concerned, star rankings are the end-all be-all in terms of evaluating prospects. Is there any stock put into them in the football offices?
Siskey: “Zero for me. It’s gotten to the point where 247 has their guys. Rivals has their guys. ESPN has their guys. One site, Player X is a national recruit. One site, he’s a three-star. One site, he has zero stars. I’ll have a conversation with a supporter and they’re like, ‘Hey, what about this guy?’ Or another will say, ‘Hey, that’s a great get!’ Or another says, ‘Why in the world are you recruiting that guy?’ For star rankings to steer thoughts … a lot of people go on about them without even watching a guy’s tape. I don’t understand what the problem is with a 6-foot-2, 240-pound linebacker that has really good instincts and runs a 4.6 flat. The problem arises because kids don’t go to camps. If a kid goes to a camp, whether it be the Nike camp or Under Armour camp or whatever camp and does really well at that camp, he’s going to get a lot of stars. If he doesn’t go, they don’t have a chance to evaluate them. I get it. The problem’s not that the kid is a three-star player. The problem is they might have not had the chance to get evaluated. There’s just not enough people doing the job and too many players to watch. I can’t personally care because if I start looking and worrying about what they’re ranked, it’s not our evaluation. It’s our livelihood on the line. To think that we’re not going to sign the best possible players that we can sign … we’ve got to feed our families. We’ve got to win football games. We know that. We wake up every morning and that’s what we do. We have to get the best guys so we can feed our families.”