That sound you heard on national signing day from around the SEC was the heads of coaches and administrators turning and taking notice of what's going on in Oxford.
All of the sudden, head coach Hugh Freeze has led the Rebels to the big-boy table.
Sure, the 7-6 record from 2012 isn't anything to write home about. However, the nation's No. 6 recruiting class in the 247Sports.com team composite index—a class that features two of the nation's top four players in defensive end Robert Nkemdiche and offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil—announced to the rest of the conference that Ole Miss isn't the pushover it once was.
Freeze certainly set the bar high for himself.
With that being said, despite a turnaround that was ahead of schedule and a recruiting class that's one of the best in the nation, the pressure isn't on Freeze in 2013.
Not yet, anyway.
Sure, Rebel fans are thinking SEC West title; and that's certainly a possibility down the road. However, despite the fantastic class, a surprising 7-6 record to build on and 18 returning starters, there's still a big gap between Ole Miss and the big boys of the SEC West.
The Rebels closed the gap considerably in 2012. They tossed away a 10-point fourth-quarter lead in a 30-27 home loss to Texas A&M and took LSU to the wire in a 41-35 loss to the Tigers in Baton Rouge.
It's one thing to play the big boys close, but it's totally different to beat them. In the rough-and-tumble SEC West, you have to do it rather consistently in order to legitimately contend for the division title.
That should be the goal for the Rebels in 2013.
They should take care of the games they should win, not suffer an inexplicable meltdown and put themselves in position to spring an upset with the big boys. Who knows? Maybe a break or two could fall their way and they can spring an upset.
With the schedule that Ole Miss has, eight wins is not unreasonable at all—especially if the Rebels get by Vanderbilt in Nashville on Week 1.
An eight-win season would keep the momentum going in the right direction, keep the program in the forefront of the minds of high school prospects and—if Freeze is able to repeat the feat—lead to a solid recruiting class in 2014.
At that time, the roster will be stocked enough to give Ole Miss a legitimate chance in the SEC West.
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