Move over, Alabama and Georgia, there's another program that's firmly in the running for 5-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (per 247sports): Ole Miss
Hugh Freeze and the Rebels program are becoming an undeniable force on the recruiting trail and Tunsil appears to be the latest elite recruit to have taken notice.
The offensive tackle took a visit to Ole Miss this past weekend and the Rebels made a great impression, according to a report by Derek Tyson of ESPN.com (Insider Access):
The 6-foot-6, 295-pound athlete said Ole Miss surprised him with what they had to offer.
"Oh man, it surprised me a lot," Tunsil said with a smile on his face. "I didn't think they would have many things to show me, but it was real good. I didn't think their facilities were like that. They showed me all of that. I didn't think the program would change as fast as it has.
Tunsil went on to say that his top two has now become a top three, with Ole Miss as the late addition:
By making a solid impression on the talented lineman, the Rebels have moved up with Georgia and Alabama at the top of his list.
"I mean Ole Miss has been near the top, too," Tunsil said. "But after I went down there, it made them go up a little bit. They are even with Georgia and Alabama. I like their tempo on offense. They think I could fit in with their tempo and I think I could, too."
Ole Miss entering this recruiting race could end up being a major game-changer. The Rebels are a huge factor right now on the recruiting trail and they are riding some serious positive momentum.
Don't underestimate the persuasive power of momentum when it comes to recruiting.
The Rebels just recently acquired the commitment of 5-star wide receiver 5-star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (per 247sports)—the No. 1 receiver in the 2013 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. The Rebels are also widely considered to be the unofficial favorite for No. 1 overall recruit Robert Nkemdiche and officially the favorite for 5-star safety Tony Conner (per 247 sports). Ole Miss is also the new favorite for recent Florida State decommit Austin Golson (4-star OT per 247sports).
The hype surrounding Ole Miss football is undeniable right now and Freeze and his staff can pitch these elite recruits on being the first class to start an epic turnaround at Ole Miss. They could be the trailblazers that help turn the Rebels back into an elite SEC program both on the field and on the recruiting trail.
It certainly is an enticing pitch, and it seems to be working so far for the Rebels.
Tunsil is just the latest in a growing list of elite recruits that seem to be buying into the hype.
That said, Alabama and Georgia have been the front-runners for a while now and it's not like Mark Richt and Nick Saban are just going to give up now that Ole Miss has joined them in Tunsil's top three.
Georgia is still a major option for the 5-star offensive tackle and Alabama can basically pitch itself to the 6'6'', 295-pound recruit.
If this feels up in the air, even Tunsil himself said that he's confused in regards to this whole recruiting situation (per Tyson):
In December, Tunsil told Georgia early enrollee quarterback Brice Ramsey and current Georgia running back Todd Gurley on his Instagram account that he would be attending Georgia. Tunsil doesn't deny that he said that, but does say things have changed.
"That was a long time ago," he said. "I'm confused right now. I really don't know what I'm going to do. I think it's going to be like a last-minute thing, like when I wake up the morning of signing day, the first team on my mind is probably going to be the college I pick."
One thing is for certain, and that's the fact that nothing is certain—especially in college football recruiting.
There have been times when I couldn't count Alabama out and others where it seemed like Tunsil was a clear Georgia lean. Now, for all intents and purposes, Ole Miss has drastically changed the tone and vibe of this recruiting race.
At this point, I'd say Tunsil's commitment is anybody's to win, so these next days and hours leading up to national signing day will be absolutely crucial for Alabama, Georgia and Ole Miss.
Either way, though, it's safe to consider Ole Miss a legitimate option for the 5-star offensive tackle.