Mississippi lands top player, makes unexpected impact on National Signing Day

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Just call it the recruiting version of a Rebel yell. High school seniors around the country signed football letters of intent Wednesday. The team that might have made the loudest recruiting noise was the University of Mississippi Rebels.

Led by the No. 1 player in the country -- defensive end Robert Nkemdiche of Loganville, Ga. -- Mississippi's class of players could be considered downright shocking. You usually don't expect to see Mississippi having one of the top recruiting classes in the country, but the Rebels' class is a consensus top-10 group and ranked as high as fifth in the country by ESPN.

"They're definitely the surprise story of the year," said longtime recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports. "They've never been in the top-10 classes ever before. To land the No. 1 player and all the others they got was definitely a unique story for them."

Nkemdiche (6 feet 5, 260 pounds) was the big catch. He is Mississippi's biggest recruit since Eli Manning. Lemming compared Nkemdiche to Reggie White when White was coming out of high school.

But he wasn't the only big shot Mississippi landed. The Rebels also got Laremy Tunsil, the No. 1 offensive tackle in the country from Lake City, Fla., and five-star receiver Laquon Treadwell of Crete, Ill. Mississippi also signed eight four-star players.

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Why are so many top players going to Mississippi all of a sudden? Getting Nkemdiche might have been the main reason.

"Do I think it was a snowball effect with Nkemdiche? Definitely," Lemming said. "It had been reported for the last two months that he was going to Ole Miss. He was just holding off on the announcement, but everyone knew. Without him, Mississippi would've had a good recruiting year, but not a great one. Three or four other top guys who came along figured they might as well join the parade."

Another one of the surprise stories, according to Lemming, was UCLA.

"It's a surprise because they bumped USC out of the top 10," Lemming said.

While Mississippi and UCLA were surprises, something not so surprising happened at Alabama. For the fifth time in the past six years, the Crimson Tide's recruiting class was ranked No. 1 in the country by Rivals.com

Alabama signed four five-star prospects -- defensive end Jonathan Allen, linebacker Reuben Foster, tight end O.J. Howard and defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson. Foster's recruiting saga had many twists and turns. He originally committed to Alabama, flipped and said he was going to Auburn. But then he flipped back recently and decided to attend Alabama.

Alabama also came into Western Pennsylvania and landed highly touted receiver Robert Foster of Central Valley High School.

Ohio State's recruiting class showed once again that Urban Meyer can recruit with the best. Scout.com ranked Ohio State's class No. 1 in the country, followed by Michigan, Alabama, UCLA and Notre Dame. The Buckeyes are strong defensively, signing five-star defensive back Vonn Bell and five-star linebacker Mike Mitchell. Cornerback Eli Apple is a four-star recruit.

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For more on high school sports, go to Varsity Blog at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.


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