Antonio Conner: 5-Star Ole Miss Safety Caps off Program's Historic Signing Day

Justin Onslow@@JustinOnslowNFLContributor IIFebruary 6, 2013

Photo courtesy of 247Sports
Photo courtesy of 247SportsKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There isn’t a college football program in the country that doesn’t envy Ole Miss in some small way at the moment.

The Rebels punctuated a strong recruiting effort with a national signing day that ranks among the best in the nation in recent years. They secured commitments from three of the top 25 players (via 247Sports), including the consensus No. 1 prospect in Robert Nkemdiche.

While Nkemdiche and Laremy Tunsil (both ranked No. 1 at their respective positions) were garnering a large portion of the attention, Antonio Conner’s signing encapsulates the reason Ole Miss was so successful on the recruiting trail this year.

According to Conner, choosing Ole Miss wasn’t just about his future (per Rod Walker of The Clarion-Ledger):

I want to do something in my state to put Mississippi on the map.

It was my decision, but I talked to some of the players and we were hoping we could get together and turn things around in Mississippi.

The 6’2”, 203-pound safety is 247Sports’ No. 2 player at the position and he brings the physical ability and desire to win that could earn him immediate playing time with the Rebels.

Conner’s former coach, Lance Pogue, feels he has the tools to play early in his career with the Rebels (per Walker):

If there is a guy who can go into the Southeastern Conference and play early, I think he fits that bill. As far as physical build and maturity, he has it.

Conner’s signing-day statements also highlight another characteristic he has—the desire to be part of something bigger. It’s one of the reasons Mississippi walked away from national signing day as a clear-cut winner with an exceptionally bright future. The program’s incoming players want to make a difference for the team.

While Ole Miss didn’t dominate in total recruits or rankings averages, it did secure 247Sports’ No. 6 overall ranking. For a team that finished 7-6 in the nation’s toughest conference last season, this year’s class is an obvious victory.

Only Alabama finished the recruiting process with more 5-star recruits (six).

With Nkemdiche, Tunsil, Conner and 5-star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell in the fold for next season, the future of Ole Miss is already looking brighter. As is the case for nearly every program, bringing in a class like this year’s only strengthens a solid foundation on which to build future recruiting classes full of players willing to play for a bigger cause.