Mississippi has hits, misses on signing day

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OXFORD, Mississippi — Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze has never been shy about chasing some of the nation's top prospects, no matter what other big-name programs are in pursuit.

That approach helped the Rebels grab arguably the school's best class ever in 2013.

It didn't work out quite as well on Wednesday.

The Rebels' class still includes a few highly-rated prospects — like receivers DaMarkus Lodge and Van Jefferson. But Ole Miss also lost out on some of its top targets in the final days of recruiting, including offensive tackle Drew Richmond (Tennessee) and linebacker Leo Lewis (Mississippi State).

Freeze said that this was a challenging class to recruit and acknowledged the Rebels didn't get everyone they wanted, but "you always lose some when you're batting for the nation's best."

Ole Miss, which is coming off a 9-4 season, did fill some needs at several positions.

Lodge and Jefferson could earn immediate playing time at receiver alongside junior Laquon Treadwell, who is coming back from a broken ankle. Lodge is listed as a five-star recruit by Scout.com, while Rivals.com has him rated as a 4-star.

The Rebels also added running back Eric Swinney from Fayetteville, Georgia. The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder is expected to fortify a running game that struggled to produce at times last season.

"We are extremely excited about a class that I think from top to bottom, could be our best since I've been here," Freeze said.

The Rebels also added five players during the early signing period who arrived on campus in January, including offensive lineman Javon Patterson and quarterback Chad Kelly.

Kelly, who is the nephew of Buffalo Bills Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, pleaded guilty in January to a non-criminal charge of disorderly conduct following a fight with bouncers outside a Buffalo, New York, nightclub. Freeze brought him to campus anyway, and he's expected to compete for the starting quarterback job if he stays out of trouble.

"He's got some strong reins on him hopefully," Freeze said.


MISSISSIPPI

Top 25 Class: Yes.

Best in class: Javon Patterson, OL. Petal, Mississippi.

Best of the rest: Eric Swinney, RB, Fayetteville, Georgia.

Late additions: DaMarkus Lodge, WR, Cedar Hill, Texas. Van Jefferson, WR, Brentwood, Tennessee.

One that got away: Drew Richmond, OT. Ole Miss hoped the 6-foot-5, 320-pound Richmond would be their left tackle of the future, but he ended up going to Tennessee

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