Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss Rebels had an epic 2013 recruiting cycle, but will that momentum continue on the recruiting trail for 2014?
That's the question Ole Miss fans should be asking themselves now that the hype surrounding national signing day has subsided.
Momentum is huge in recruiting, and there's no doubting the fact that the Rebels were riding a major wave. It all started when No. 1 overall recruit Robert Nkemdiche decommitted from Clemson and Ole Miss became the favorite, and it came to its high point on Feb. 6, when the Rebels put together a most impressive class.
Ole Miss landed Nkemdiche, which wasn't much of a surprise, but it also received huge signatures from the likes of 5-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and 5-star safety Tony Conner. The Rebels also signed the nation's No. 1 wideout recruit (247Sports Composite), 5-star receiver Laquon Treadwell.
Coach Freeze undoubtedly put himself up amongst the best recruiters in college football during this past cycle, and at the very least, he has some major credibility to stand on now for 2014. As much as recruiting is about hype and momentum, credibility is also incredibly important. Freeze can now point to his 2013 class as a testament to the fact that Ole Miss is a program where elite recruits want to play football. That could end up being a big-time difference maker for the Rebels during the 2014 cycle.
Still, the question remains, will we see Ole Miss continue its impressive recruiting ways?
Frankly, that's a question that's going to take some time to answer.
Sustained recruiting success is a process more than anything, and Freeze and the Rebels have completed the first step. They've put together an incredible class that features big, marquee names that will create hype around the program, but also a number of role players.
The potential is there, but now Ole Miss has to do something with that potential.
Step two is simple: translate recruiting success into on-field success. Well, it's simple at least in theory, but obviously much easier said than done.
The fact of the matter is that everything Ole Miss accomplished on the recruiting trail in 2013 will be for naught if Freeze can't lead his team to some big-time wins during the 2013 season. With great talent comes great expectations, and it's safe to say that the expectations are high for the Rebels.
They need to be able to compete with the best in the SEC on the football field if they want to continue to compete with them on the recruiting trail. Any program can have a great recruiting year out of the blue. It's the great programs that are able to couple their recruiting success with on-field success. At that point it becomes a cycle of greatness, and that's how winning programs are built in college football.
More than anything, winning is the biggest draw in recruiting, and that's the next step for Ole Miss. Freeze has proven that he can recruit with the big schools in college football, but now he needs to prove that he can beat them.
If Ole Miss wants to have another dominant recruiting class in 2014, the Rebels will have to prove that they can win with the best of the best.
Sustained recruiting success is derived from sustained on-field success. Recruits need to know that they'll be more than just a big name on national signing day. They need to know that signing day is just the beginning of great, competitive career. A lot of that will be determined by the player personally, but the overall competitiveness of a team is also a huge factor.
A 7-6 season will not cut it for Ole Miss in 2013. The time for moral victories has come and gone, so "playing competitive" against the likes of LSU, Alabama, Auburn and LSU will no longer be good enough. Freeze needs to go out and win a few of those big games. Ole Miss needs to prove that it can recruit great players and experience great results on the football field.
Then and only then will we know whether or not Ole Miss can be a dominant force on the recruiting trail for a second straight year.
Follow Andrew on Twitter: @AKonSports