The game, or the results, were of little impact on the bigger issue, which is the direction of the program itself.
The Rebels are at somewhat of a crossroads in their football existence. They have been looking for a competent head coach ever since they wrongfully shoved David Cutcliffe out the door and found poor results. Ed Orgeron and Houston Nutt were total busts.
They have also been looking for a decent quarterback, something they haven’t had since Eli Manning. Yes, Jevan Snead had a good season, but he won’t be remembered.
Now, with a new coach, a new quarterback and a new athletic director, the program is in a new direction and the results are actually very promising. New coach Hugh Freeze has done a very good job of weeding out weak links, improving academic performance, bringing in an exciting new offense and giving a jolt of life to recruiting. Freeze is keenly aware that the Rebels need more talent to be able to compete and has done a fantastic job not only for 2012, but for the class of ’13 too.
What better way to capitalize on all of this momentum than by showcasing your program against one of the premier brands in sports marketing on the biggest sports channel in the world on prime time television?
The Rebels were the host of dozens upon dozens of some of the premier talent in the country and they made a heck of an impression.
Robert Nkemdiche, the top player in the country, was there to see not only his big brother Denzel start for the Rebel defense, but to see if he likes Ole Miss more than Clemson. Laquon Treadwell, the top ranked receiver nationally by Rivals.com, loved seeing Rebel wide receiver Donte Moncrief being the focal point on offense. Quarterback Ryan Buchanon, running backs Mark Dodson Jr. and Kailo Moore, defensive end Dee Liner, the list goes on and on of elite college football recruiting prospects in attendance.
The recruits visiting saw how excited the fan base and the school were for this new regime, and this new direction. Yes, they lost, but the Rebels played inspired football. Yes, they were over-matched and simply couldn’t keep up with the ‘Horns, but they never rolled over. They could have given up, but kept making big plays throughout the game, something that wasn’t lost on the recruits.
Recruits saw the game day atmosphere, big play ability of the team, the effort players give for a coach they respect and an entirely different team than what they saw last year. They can sense the optimism in the direction of things.
Most of all, recruits saw an opportunity to go to a rebuilding SEC school and be able to compete right away for playing time. The time is now for the young guys. When these coaches tell you that you can see time immediately, believe them.
They will also have the opportunity to be responsible for the resurrection of a once and still proud program and fan base.