Chris Jones, Laremy Tunsil Could Lead Ole Miss to a Top-5 Class

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJanuary 28, 2013

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze
Ole Miss head coach Hugh FreezeDaniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

When you think of SEC recruiting juggernauts, Alabama, LSU, Florida, Auburn and Texas A&M immediately come to mind. 

In years past, you would have to go down that list pretty far to find the Ole Miss Rebels. In each of the past two seasons, the Rebels have finished in the bottom half of the SEC in the final team recruiting rankings

That is not the case in 2013.

The Rebels currently sit 14th in the national team recruiting rankings—a number that could jump into the top five if things go their way between now and sundown on national signing day.

Their 23-commit class is headlined by 5-star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and 4-star defensive tackle Lavon Hooks, and head coach Hugh Freeze has positioned his program as the front-runner for No. 1 prospect Robert Nkemdiche, the 6'4", 285-pound defensive end from Grayson (Ga.) High School.

The Rebels are also hot on the heels of 5-star safety Tony Conner from Batesville, Miss. Auburn and Alabama are also heavily pursing the 6'1", 205-pounder, but staying in-state and committing to Ole Miss is certainly a possibility.

If Ole Miss lands those two players, it would likely move into the top 10. But its 2013 class could be even better.

Chris Jones, the nation's No. 2 overall prospect in the rankings, made a surprise visit to Oxford this weekend. The 6'5", 250-pound defensive end has been a commitment to Mississippi State since June of last year but decided to check out Ole Miss on a weekend when Nkemdiche, Conner and Treadwell were also on campus.

If the Rebels are able to land Nkemdiche and Jones, it would have one of the most fearsome pass rushes we've seen off the edge in quite some time.

Not to be outdone, 5-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil—the nation's No. 3 overall prospect—was also on campus on an official visit over the weekend. After the trip, the 6'6", 295-pounder told that Florida State was out of the running for his services, meaning it's down to Alabama, Georgia and Ole Miss.

It may be more of a long shot for Ole Miss to land Tunsil, but on the off chance that he chooses the Rebels, they will have a chance at signing the nation's top three prospects.

Not too shabby, especially considering they're coming off a 7-6 season and haven't been in the SEC West title hunt in nearly a decade.

Freeze, an ace on the recruiting trail, was absolutely the right hire for Ole Miss. His offensive system, combined with available playing time on defense, has made Ole Miss the flavor of the week—or in this case, the recruiting season.

The rest of the SEC West has surely taken notice of the Rebels' resurgence. If the chips fall in their favor between now and Feb. 6, they will further solidify their place among the country's elite recruiting powers.