Robert Nkemdiche starts historic National Signing Day for Ole Miss

By Chip Patterson | College Football/Basketball Writer

Robert Nkemdiche, the consensus No. 1 overall prospect in the 2013 recruiting class, kicked off National Signing Day by announcing his decision to attend Ole Miss.

"The recruiting process has been long, but I've enjoyed it," Nkemdiche said before he made his announcement at the podium Wednesday morning at his high school in Loganville, Ga. "After much discussion and prayer, I have decided to attend the University of Ole Miss."

The star defensive end prospect told ESPN after the announcement that joining his brother, Denzel Nkemdiche, was "a pretty big factor" and he already has set a goal of being named a freshman All-American.

But Nkemdiche's commitment is just one piece of what is quickly becoming a historic recruiting class for Ole Miss.

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The Rebels already ranked just outside of the Top 10 before National Signing Day, and even without Nkemdiche this would be one of the better recruiting classes in school history. But with the consensus No. 1 overall prospect, the Rebels could record THE best class since such information was being collected.

Over the last decade, the closest thing to a truly elite class has been Ed Orgeron's 2006 recruiting class, which ranked No. 15 in the Rivals rankings at the time. The recruiting coordinator at the time -- current head coach Hugh Freeze.

The Rebels certainly will rise from their current No. 11 spot in the 247Sports team rankings, but there is a chance Freeze could put together a recruiting class today that is more than just the best in school history.

On the Signing Day preview podcast earlier this week, JC Shurburtt, the national recruiting director for 247Sports, pointed out that if Ole Miss also can land offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and flip defensive end Chris Jones from Mississippi State, the Rebels could finish with the Top 3 recruits in the nation. Only the Fab Five from Michigan basketball and some of John Calipari's recent classes at Kentucky could probably compare to that accomplishment. Jones did end up sticking with his commitment to the Bulldogs, but there was plenty of good news throughout the morning for Freeze and Ole Miss.

Tunsil did commit to the Rebels in his nationally televised announcement, and four star offensive tackle Austin Golson -- previously a Florida State commit with offers from Alabama, Auburn, and North Carolina -- signed his National Letter of Intent and faxed it to Oxford. The Golson/Tunsil combo, five star wide recever Laquon Treadwell, and the addition of in-state three star linemen Davion Johnson and Daronte Bouldin give the Rebels a promising offensive line to compliment with the star-studded defense.

That defense, by the way, got even stronger with the commitment of five star safety Tony Conner. Conner was ranked by 247Sports as the No. 2 safety prospect in the 2013 class, and he chose the Rebels over SEC West rival Alabama. The tidal wave of defensive momentum began with five star JUCO defensive tackle Lavon Hooks -- already enrolled at Mississippi -- and has continued all the way to Conner.

"To get Antonio Conner is the grand slam we've been talking about all week," coach Hugh Freeze told ESPN. "He's a Mississippi kid, we think he is the top player in the state this year, and to pair him with Lavon [Hooks] and of course Nkemdiche; they are going instant impact players on our defense."

How has Freeze done it? According to Schurburtt, there is no better in the business as working connections and personal relationships.

"I think what happens [at Ole Miss], that staff does a great job of working connections," Shurburtt explained. "I think because of Hugh Freeze's quasi-celebrity -- because of The Blind Side -- he's always got an in on kids.

"That gives you an in to build a relationship, and I don't know if there's any better in the country at building relationships than Hugh Freeze and his staff. That's what recruiting boils down to: relationships and comfort level."

For much more breaking news and analysis, keep it locked in at CBSSports.com Signing Day Central

For more college football news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnCFB on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS Feed, college football newsletter, and get the Eye On College Football Podcast from iTunes. You can follow Chip Patterson on Twitter here: @cnpatterson3.

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