The Rebels added 15 of their 21 2020 commitments in a month’s time, headlined by the pledges of a trio of four-stars: defensive back Eric Reed, defensive tackle Josaih Hayes and quarterback Robby Ashford.
A dead period has arrived, meaning college coaches aren’t allowed, per NCAA rules, to have face-to-face contact with recruits or watch them compete or visit their high schools. But they can still write and call, which the Rebels are doing, even if head coach Matt Luke and staff are taking some time away from Oxford before the run-up to the season kicks off in earnest with fall camp in August. Ole Miss’ last commitment was three-star cornerback De’Arre McDonald July 2.
“It’s been a really good summer for us,” Ole Miss wide receivers coach and ace recruiter Jacob Peeler said. “Excited about this class. It’s always fun to be back on recruiting terms where we’re able to recruit to a full number and a full class. Looking forward to keeping this momentum going.”
Visits have slowed down, but communication continues. Ole Miss is in on a number of top prospects, from McKinnley Jackson and Jeremiah Pegues to Marcus Henderson, Martavius French and others. Peeler is one of the lead recruiters for Pegues, the four-star Oxford, Miss., product who is also coveted by Auburn, Alabama and LSU.
Pegues falls into Peeler’s recruiting territory, which stretches out as far as California, his previous coaching stop before he left to return home to Mississippi. Ole Miss continues to operate as an area-based staff under Luke, though the Rebels are no longer hamstrung by restrictions placed on them by the NCAA following its multi-year investigative process.
“We’re definitely still an area-based staff,” he said. “It all starts there. If you start going just at your position, a lot of times what will happen is you’ll roll into a high school and the next thing you know there’s a 9th or 10th-grader there that’s a really good player. If I’m just going to check out a receiver, I may miss on that defensive lineman or that corner that they have. We’re going to be an area-based staff.”
Peeler said Ole Miss recruiting starts in Mississippi, where the Rebels hold nine commitments. Jackson is from Lucedale. Henderson and French hail from Memphis — all but considered, from Ole Miss’ standpoint, as an extension of Mississippi recruiting.
The Shark Tank — a multi-layered system instituted and operated by assistant A.D. for player personnel Tyler Siskey — provides Luke and staff with any and all information and resources needed to properly evaluate and land players. Each recruit has a detailed profile, including highlight cut-ups, detailed scouting reports and family contacts.
“It all starts in our state and it goes from there,” Peeler said. “We all have different parts of the country and in the southeast, obviously, which is where we start. Every position coach is going to have a relationship. You’re always going to have your area, then it’s going to go position, then coordinator, then head coach from there.
“The system that we have in place with coach Siskey and his staff, and they do a tremendous job, we’re going to be on top of it as much as possible. Fortunately for us, you’re able to get these kids on campus in the summer for camp, and that’s important in a state like Mississippi, where you’ve got so many kids that play multiple sports, to see their progression. When I was coaching in California, I would come out to Mississippi to recruit these kids because you knew their celling was so high. They’re not always just dialed in on one sport where they’re maxed out. There’s a lot of growth and development. This state continues to shock you. We went into the summer and we had some kids that just blew it out of the water and performed well and competed hard and put up some really good numbers.”
Recruiting is only as good as its head coach, however, and Peeler believes in Luke. Ole Miss currently possesses the No. 16 class in the country, according to 247Sports. The Rebels are No. 7 in the SEC.
“I think he’s absolutely tremendous,” Peeler said. “He’s so personable. He’s himself. The same Matt Luke that you’ll see in a recruit’s home or in his office is the same Matt Luke you’ll see at Walmart or Huddle House or AJax. He’s the same guy every single day. People know he’s genuine. People know he’s being honest, up front and real with them. There’s not a recruiting pitch. It’s real. Parents especially, they see that and they know it’s genuine.
“When I go into an in-home with coach Luke, it’s always fun, just how he carries himself in the in-home. With coaches, you never know. Some put the pipe dream and sell them recruiting. A lot of times that gets seen through pretty quickly with parents and kids. His approach is genuine and real. That’s why he’s had the success he’s had. He had success as a position coach before becoming a head coach. He was recruiting lights out. He’s one of the best recruiters in the country.”