Twas five days before Christmas, and all through the Manning Center Ole Miss coach Matt Luke was busy unwrapping gifts intended for someone else.
Luke, whose future as coach was uncertain until the interim tag was removed on Nov. 26, announced 15 signees on Wednesday.
Included in the group are quarterback Matt Corral, wide receiver Elijah Moore and defensive end James Williams, who were all committed to other schools at one time or other in the process.
Williams, rated the No. 4 player in Mississippi by Rivals.com and the No. 6 player by 247Sports.com, was a Signing Day Surprise as the Jackson native flipped from Mississippi State.
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Corral was originally committed to Southern Cal but spent most of his recruitment as a Florida commit. There was speculation that Corral was unhappy when new Florida coach Dan Mullen began seeking a second quarterback for the Gators’ class.
Corral and Moore – who was previously committed to Georgia -- are both rated as four-star prospects on the 247Sports composite list. That list ranks Corral as the No. 60 overall prospect, the No. 3 pro style quarterback and the No. 8 player in California. Moore, of Fort Lauderdale, is rated the No. 197 recruit, the No. 38 wide receiver and the No. 33 player in Florida.
“It’s all about relationships and fit. When a young man is trying to make a decision he’s got to pick the best environment for him,” Luke said. “All these outside influences, Twitter, none of that stuff matters. What matters is picking the best environment for you, so you can go be happy. I think that was the case with those three young men.”
Those three helped the Ole Miss class jump roughly 25 spots to No. 35 in the 247Sports class rankings.
Based on NCAA penalties handed down on Dec. 1 Ole Miss can sign only 22 recruits over the early and traditional signing periods. As he juggles numbers Luke believes he’ll be able to sign “potentially eight to nine” in the late period.
Corral will enroll in January and will go through spring drills.
“I thought it was imperative that we go out and sign a mid-year quarterback to come in and compete in the spring,” Luke said.
Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College linebacker Vernon Dasher wasn’t another flip for Luke, but Dasher had shown a lot of interest in Kansas State until Ole Miss made up ground after his official visit last Saturday.
Luke believes Dasher (6-3, 215) can help immediately as the Rebels are losing outside linebacker DeMarquis Gates, their leading tackler. The staff was impressed with Dasher’s ability to play in space. He’s rated the No. 6 outside linebacker at the junior college level.
It’s middle linebacker that has been a position of great need for two years. Three-star signee Jacquez Jones, of Tuscaloosa, at 6-1, 225 has the build to help there.
The Rebels also have three young linebackers from the 2017 class who played little or redshirted this season.
Luke said he may look for another linebacker who would be a May junior college graduate.
“We want to keep developing the young guys and also bring in some guys to help and create competition,” Luke said. “Some of the guys we redshirted last year are pushing for playing time, and some of the guys we bring in will be pushing for playing time.”