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September 2, 2013
Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
Landing three five-star players from the Class of 2013 -- and the No. 7 overall class in the country -- was a boon for Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze. After the Rebels' 38-35 victory over Vanderbilt to open the season, it is clear that the class is already justifying the hype.
The three at Ole Miss -- Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil -- were not alone as 24 of the 33 players who earned a five-star ranking in the recently signed class saw action during the first weekend of the season. Three more players could be added to that total when Pittsburgh and Florida State close the slate of games tonight.
Freeze did not let the young players talk to the media, but the second-year coach was glowing in his praise.
"I can't stress how good of kids Laquon and Tony (Conner) and Laremy and Robert are," he told RebelGrove.com. "I was a little concerned that maybe they'd have a little too much ego. Not at all. They're like sponges; they just want to compete.
"Laquon, gosh dog, he didn't play like a freshman. Neither did Laremy. Neither did Austin Golson. Neither did Tony."
Nkemdiche was the No. 1 player in the Rivals100 presented by Under Armour for the class of 2013. Treadwell was No. 5 and Tunsil No. 14.
Neither Connor nor Golson was a five-star, but each was a nationally ranked four-star. Connor was No. 88 and Golson No. 118.
All played a major role in the victory.
Nkemdiche started at defensive end and collected two solo tackles -- one for a loss. He converted a fourth down on a fake punt, running for 11 yards.
Treadwell became the first Ole Miss receiver to catch nine passes since Mike Espy in 2006. He finished the evening with 82 yards.
Tunsil and Golson did not start on the offensive line, but when the two were inserted into the game it was an immediate and dramatic improvement for the unit. They aided in the turnaround in play from quarterback Bo Wallace.
Offensive line coach Matt Luke credited the duo.
"We had an OK first quarter, but in the second quarter we kind of got out of our rhythm and had some third-and-longs," Luke said. "We went in at halftime and said, 'We've got to do what we do, and that's play fast.' Those young guys are athletic, and they can play fast. So that's what we did."
Conner did not start, but his interception in the first quarter gave Ole Miss the ball at the Vanderbilt 31 and led to the opening field goal of the game.
Conner added three tackles and a pass breakup as the young group of players showed well.
Ole Miss will take on Southeast Missouri State next week before a five-game stretch will test the mettle and maturity of its players. Freeze will lead the team on the road against Texas, Alabama and Auburn before returning to Oxford for home dates with Texas A&M and LSU.
How the team navigates the stretch will likely be on the shoulders of the young players, but the opening week result didn't drop expectations.
"It's got to give us confidence," Freeze said.
Recruiting class of 2013 five-star tracker
Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
Carl Lawson, Auburn
Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
Max Browne, USC
Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
Jonathan Allen, Alabama
Su'a Cravens, USC
Rueben Foster, Alabama
Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
Matthew Thomas, FSU
O.J. Howard, Alabama
Tre'Davious White, LSU
Greg Bryant, Notre Dame
Leon McQuay III, USC
Frank Herron, LSU
Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
Montravius Adams, Auburn
Ty Isaac, USC
Alex Anzalone, Florida
Taquan Mizzell, Virginia
Max Redfield, Notre Dame
Dorian Johnson, Pitt
Vonn Bell, Ohio State
A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama