Ole Miss

After often passing on Coast’s top prospects, Ole Miss zeroes in on area football stars

Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke leads his team onto the field before the game between Ole Miss and South Alabama at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford on Sept. 2, 2017.
Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke leads his team onto the field before the game between Ole Miss and South Alabama at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford on Sept. 2, 2017. Special to the Sun Herald

There was a healthy stretch where Ole Miss didn’t offer many of South Mississippi’s top football prospects.

The low point of that run came in 2016 when Bill Conides, who was then the head coach at St. Stanislaus, felt the need to publicly criticize Ole Miss for the lack of offers for his top players. Those Rockachaws included current LSU quarterback Myles Brennan and now Purdue tight end Darius Pittman.

A little less than two years later, Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke, a Gulfport native, has zeroed in on several young prospects in the state’s southernmost six counties.

A pair of players on the defensive side of the ball, Gulfport junior linebacker Derick Hall and George County sophomore defensive lineman McKinnley Jackson, hold offers from Luke. They were joined this past weekend by two Coast offensive linemen — St. Martin junior Brandon Cunningham and Harrison Central junior lineman Bryce Ramsey.

Jackson is an LSU commit and has an impressive list of offers that includes Alabama, Auburn, Florida State and Mississippi State. Hall has just recently seen his stock take a big leap with overs from Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Kansas.

Opportunity to play in-state

Cunningham had a pretty good idea that an Ole Miss offer was on the way, but Ramsey didn’t see it coming.

“I was excited because I didn’t expect it,” Ramsey said. “They told (Harrison Central coach Casey Cain). He called me, telling me that he had good news and he told me. I was thrilled.”

Ramsey also holds scholarship offers from Florida State, Southern Miss, South Alabama, Memphis, Alcorn State and Jackson State.

Ramsey, who is friends with Cunningham, likes the idea of playing college ball in his home state.

“My mom wants to make every home game,” he said. “If I go to college closer, we can make that that happen.”

Ramsey is a 6-foot-3, 340-pound lineman who wants to play center at the next level. He is a powerlifter with a career best lift of 810 pounds in the squat.

For Ramsey, this offseason is about shedding pounds with a diet full of brown rice, baked chicken and green beans. He plans to drop his weight to somewhere around 320-325 pounds for his senior campaign.

St. Martin offer

While Ramsey is attracted to the idea of playing at Ole Miss, Cunningham may be a harder sell for the Rebels.

The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Cunningham committed to Miami in July not long after picking up an offer from Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt. Even though his mom warned him against committing so early in the process, he felt a strong connection with Richt and the rest of the Miami staff.

“I feel I’m still committed to Miami, but I will listen to everybody,” Cunningham said.

Watching Miami finish 10-3 with an Orange Bowl bid in 2017 only increased his interest in joining the program.

“Just watching them play, I’d think about how I’d love to be part of the action.”

Asked whether he’d like to play college football with his friend, Ramsey, Cunningham responded, “That would be absolutely great if Miami offered him.”