Robert Nkemdiche and Laremy Tunsil—the No. 1 and No. 4 overall recruits in the nation, according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings—announced on ESPNU that they have chosen to commit to Ole Miss. These decisions undoubtedly take the Rebels from an average team to legitimate contenders.
Nkemdiche and Tunsil highlight an amazing national signing day for Ole Miss. Their commitments shake the foundation of the Southeastern Conference to its core.
The Rebels were not a viable contender in the SEC this season—going 7-6 through the whole schedule and 3-5 in the conference—but adding the versatile defensive end and the top offensive line prospect would be a great coup for any program.
These additions are an even bigger deal to Ole Miss, which is trying to return to an elite level of play in the SEC.
Instead of ranking 60th in college football on defense (27.6 points per game) like the Rebels did in 2012, the pressure off the edge that Nkemdiche will add and the ability to tackle in the open field will begin the team's turnaround right away.
As much impact as Nkemdiche will have on the defense, adding Tunsil to the offensive line will help in both the passing and the rushing attack. The Rebels ranked 49th and 50th in passing and rushing yards per game, respectively, in 2012. Tunsil’s elite ability makes him the ultimate addition to the offensive line.
Add in the fact that the Rebels' 2013 recruiting class also has 5-star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, 4-star running backs Mark Dodson, Jr. and Jordan Wilkins and 4-star defensive end Elijah Daniel (h/t Rivals.com), and Ole Miss is changing the way the program is viewed.
The Rebels also got a commitment from 5-star safety prospect Tony Conner (h/t Hugh Kellenberger), who will add even more depth and talent to a budding Ole Miss team.
Ole Miss may not win right away in a deep SEC conference that features college football powerhouses like Alabama, Florida, LSU and others, but this is a good beginning for a new generation of talented players for the Rebels.
The most underrated factor of these two promising stars is the fact that they will not only be joining each other, but will have Nkemdiche's brother, Denzel, on the blossoming team as well.
That comfort level is an intangible that can’t be measured.
The shift from high school to college is a huge adjustment for any recruit, but the fact that the No. 1 and No. 3 overall prospects will have each other to lean on will make the transition easier and help the stars flourish almost immediately.
As freshmen on a Rebels team looking for an identity, Nkemdiche and Tunsil will be looked upon to make an impact from the very first snap of their college football careers.
Nkemdiche is one of the best pure athletes in the country. His size (6’4” and 285 pounds), strength and speed (4.65 40-yard dash) so early in his development has the ceiling for his potential set extremely high.
Nkemdiche has been compared to former No. 1 prospect and South Carolina Gamecocks standout defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (h/t Sports Illustrated), but Ole Miss is just hoping the talented prospect lives up to his current billing as a possible starter.
Tunsil is an absolute freak on the offensive line, standing at 6’6” and weighing in at 295 pounds. He can play either tackle position, which will instantly help the Rebels.
With the ability to stop the run and pass protect, Ole Miss has made a great stride on national signing day by getting Tunsil on board.
There will be a very high bar set for these freshmen stars, but the mental makeup of these young men and their physical prowess will help shift the balance of power in the SEC more toward the Ole Miss Rebels.