It’s football signing day – the first day high school football recruits can sign binding letters of intent with the colleges of their choice (and virtually all of them sign today) – a.k.a. Christmas morning for recruiting fanatics a.k.a. the creepiest day of the sports year. We’ll get the usual disclaimer out of the way first: yes, it’s more than a little unsettling that a highly successful cottage industry exists based on the intense interest of adults in the decisions and whims of high schoolers.
However, it exists because people love college sports, and recruiting is often (correctly) described as the lifeblood of those sports. Full disclosure: I’m an avid follower of recruiting, especially in football. I’m not necessarily proud of it, but there you go. I can’t stay away. Therefore, I know that today is a big day that will cause much productivity to be lost in many offices throughout America, and I know that this is one of the biggest pieces of news that will emerge today: Robert Nkemdiche, ranked by Rivals as the top recruit in the nation, is going to Ole Miss.
While this is a big development, it was also fully expected: Nkemdiche’s brother plays for the Rebels, and he’d been expected to follow him there for a while now. But Nkemdiche’s recruitment has featured a number of twists and turns – he committed to Clemson early, but then, somewhat infamously, tried to get his friend a scholarship too, presenting the two as a package deal. Eventually, he de-committed from Clemson, and there was some late drama that led some to believe maybe he’d pull a signing day shocker, but ultimately he did what everyone expected. Here he is making his commitment, in a bow tie:
Nkemdiche is the jewel of a stunningly good class for the Rebels – one that, as this post was being written, got even better when top offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil (the No. 14 player nationally, according to Rivals) committed to Ole Miss as well – and that’s on top of the nation’s top receiver, Laquon Treadwell, taking his talents to Oxford as well. Ole Miss improved tremendously on the field last season, going from 2-10 to 7-6 under (spectacularly-named) first-year coach Hugh Freeze, and if they keep recruiting at anywhere near this level, many more wins than that should follow.
It doesn’t mean more wins will follow – highly-ranked high schoolers sometimes turn into busts, after all – but it gives Freeze something very, very promising to build on, and that’s what signing day is really about: looking forward to the future. College sports, even more than pro, thanks to the personal connections people feel with their schools – is nothing if not an endless quest for bragging rights. Recruiting is one more opportunity to brag, and today, Ole Miss fans can gloat louder and prouder than anyone else in the land.