OXFORD, Miss. -- The Ole Miss football coaching staff put the finishing touches on a top-25 recruiting class Wednesday, adding six new signees to the 25 already inked in December.
As the 2019 cycle came to a close, the Rebel class came in at No. 21 in the Rivals team rankings and No. 22 in both the 247Sports Composite and ESPN rankings. In total, the Rebels signed one 5-star prospect and 10 4-star prospects, leaving head coach Matt Luke thrilled with the new batch of Rebels coming to Oxford.
"Really excited about this class," Luke said. "This is a very big, deep class. Most of it was done in December, but we had a great day today. I have to credit our staff. They did a phenomenal job of closing today, because we still had some needs out there at defensive line and linebacker and keeping some of the best players in Mississippi at home, and we were able to accomplish that today. Top to bottom, this class can be the foundation of getting this program back on track and back where we all want it to go."
The highlight of the day came when one of the Magnolia State's best, 5-star running back Jerrion Ealy, announced live on ESPN2 his commitment to Ole Miss. A two-sport star, Ealy is one of just four players to ever earn Under Armour All-American honors in both baseball and football. The others: A.J. Brown, 2018 Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray and LSU signee Maurice Hampton.
Ealy is a top-100 recruit by all major recruiting services and is the No. 19 overall player in the ESPN 300, the No. 3 prospect in the state of Mississippi and the No. 3 running back in the nation. Ealy was a longtime Rebel verbal commit, but he recently de-committed, only to come back and sign with the Rebels Wednesday. Luke is anxious to see the Jackson Prep product join the running back room in Oxford.
"In the end, when Jarrion came back, he felt at home," Luke said. "Him making the decision to stay in Mississippi makes a statement for a lot of different reasons. Not only is he a great player, he's also a very good person. He's one of the top players, if not the top player in Mississippi. I'm very excited about that decision."
Signing Day began with another top-flight Mississippian, 4-star receiver Jonathan Mingo, affirming his verbal commitment to the Rebels and putting pen to paper to seal an outstanding class of receivers who will comprise the next generation of the Nasty Wide Outs. The Brandon, Mississippi, native is the No. 6 prospect and No. 2 receiver in the state and was also a 2019 Under Armour All-American Game selection.
"Mingo has been committed for a long time, and there's been a lot of questions about it going back and forth, but he stayed true the whole time and we're excited we have him," Luke said. "Junior college receiver Dontario Drummond is a guy that can come in and make an immediate impact, and you have four very, very talented freshman, three of those guys being from Mississippi, so very proud of that group, and we'll be expecting for some of those guys to play early."
Elsewhere offensively, the Rebels added dual-threat quarterback John Rhys Plumlee out of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Another dual-sport prospect, Plumlee will also play baseball for the Rebels. On the gridiron, Plumlee earned Mississippi Class 6A Offensive Player of the Year honors as he led Oak Grove to the South State Championship and a runner-up finish in the 2018 state title game.
"John Rhys Plumlee, he loved what Rich Rodriguez was telling him," Luke said. "Now we have some depth there at quarterback that's going to create some competition, and I'm excited about that. I think all three of those quarterbacks that we signed are all different, but they're all special, and that, along with Matt Corral, is going to be a great competition."
Of the Rebels' 31 commitments, 19 are Mississippi Made—18 Mississippi natives, along with junior college defensive lineman Sam Williams, a Montgomery, Alabama, native who joins the Rebels out of Northwest Mississippi Community College.
"It's big," Luke said. "I want to get them all. I want to get every player in the state of Mississippi, but to get 19 of our 31, that's very important. It will always start there. It will always start in the state of Mississippi. To get the three young men we got from Mississippi this morning was a big deal. It's a big deal for our program and for all of our fans moving forward."
The Rebels went out of state to add three talented defensive prospects. The highlight of the defensive haul came as the last signing of the 2019 class. The nation's No. 1 junior college inside linebacker, 4-star Lakia Henry, announced his commitment to the Rebels Wednesday afternoon.
Henry is the No. 3 overall JUCO prospect and the No. 1 JUCO ILB in the 247Sports composite rankings. He amassed 187 tackles in two years at Dodge City Community College. Luke and defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre are excited to see what Henry can do in the Rebels' new-look 3-4 defense.
"Lakia, hearing Mike McIntyre talk about his pro-style defense – 'Hey, this is the exact same defense that the Chicago Bears are using,' and showing him cut-ups of that. I think that's a big deal," Luke said. "Signing the No. 1 junior college linebacker in the country is a big deal for us. We've struggled at that position, and to get a guy that can come in and give us some immediate help is a big deal."
Ole Miss also added a pair of 3-star Alabama defensive linemen in Brandon Mack and LeDarrius Cox. Mack verbally committed to Ole Miss shortly after the December signing period and made it official Wednesday. Cox, meanwhile, was verbally committed to Tennessee but joined the Rebels as a Signing Day flip.
Cox comes to Ole Miss out of Mobile after earning Class 7A First Team All-State honors. Mack, who was previously verbally committed to Pittsburgh, will come to Oxford from Montgomery. Mack is the No. 15 prospect in Alabama according to Rivals and participated in the 2018 Mississippi/Alabama All-Star game.
"Going into this second signing period, it was important that we get a pass rusher, a defensive tackle and a linebacker, and we were able to hit on all three of those, so I was very, very pleased with that," Luke said. "I think Brandon Mack's a great pass rusher and LaDarrius Cox gives us that size in the middle."
Of the Rebels' 31 commitments, 12 are already enrolled and will take part in spring practice. Between a top-25 recruiting class and the addition of two former Power 5 head coaches at the offensive and defensive coordinator spots, Luke is thrilled with the direction and momentum of the program that was established this offseason.
"We had a very, very good offseason," Luke said. "There's a commitment to winning from our administration. We went out and signed Mike McIntyre and Rich Rodriguez. Those were two big signees. We were able to hold on to some of our staff members, that other schools were trying to come in and take some of our coaches, and I think that's very important as a commitment to winning. There is no more bowl ban, there are no more sanctions, there are no more scholarship restrictions. When you can go into a home, it gives you a lot of confidence, especially when there's that commitment to winning from your administration. So very, very proud and excited about that."