OXFORD, Miss. (OLE MISS MEDIA RELATIONS) - A trio of Under Armour All-Americans and some of the nation's best junior college players highlighted Hugh Freeze's first Ole Miss signing class on Wednesday.
Despite a new staff that had only three weeks on the road to recruit, the Rebels added immediate punch to the defense with All-Americans Trae Elston, Issac Gross and Channing Ward.
Meanwhile, the offense is bolstered by the national junior college player of the year in Bo Wallace and the MVP of the JUCO national championship game in Pierce Burton.
"We are really excited about our class," said Freeze. "I will never stand before you any year and say that this a great class, because I think that is proven in time. I do think it is a very good class. We had to try to develop these relationships in the tough recruiting battles that you face in this conference. "
The Rebels pulled in prospects from six states, including Mississippi (six), Tennessee (four), Alabama (two), Georgia (two), California (one) and Florida (one).
By position, the Rebels welcome to the program four defensive linemen, four offensive linemen, three running backs, two defensive backs, two athletes, one quarterback and one wide receiver.
"On the defensive line is where we hit the biggest home run," said Freeze. "In this conference we have to win on the defensive line. To land Channing Ward and Issac Gross who are both Under Armor All-America guys was huge. To get those guys as freshmen and get them ready to play is a huge get for us."
Ward will come to Oxford as arguably the top recruit in the class. The 6-4, 250-pound Aberdeen, Miss., native was ranked as a five-star recruit and No. 8 defensive end in the nation by Scout.com. His senior season at Aberdeen High School he produced an impressive 116 tackles and 16 QB sacks.
Gross, a product of powerhouse South Panola High School in nearby Batesville is ranked the No. 25 defensive tackle in the country by Scout.com and Rivals.com. He also ranks the No. 1 player in Mississippi and No. 35 overall recruit by ESPN.com.
"I have gotten to know Issac, as well as Channing, the best," said Freeze. "They have been around the most on unofficial trips and basketball games and other things. I am really impressed with both of those young men. These guys love to compete."
Elston concluded his high school football career guiding Oxford High School (Ala.) to a 12-2 record and a spot in the Class 6A Semifinals. ESPN.com ranks the defensive back, the No. 10 safety in the nation and No. 12 recruit in the state of Alabama.
Although the Rebels signed just one quarterback, Wallace joins the Ole Miss family with a national championship already under his belt. The 6-5, 210-pound quarterback led East Mississippi Junior College to the top of the junior college ranks last season and set NJCAA single-season records for passing yards (4,604), total yards (4,810) and touchdown passes (53) en route to National Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Burton also comes to Oxford after an outstanding junior college career. The Sacramento native helped City College of San Francisco to a perfect 12-0 season and a California Junior College state championship. Prior to junior college, he played one year at San Jose State where he was coached by Mike MacIntyre, a former Ole Miss assistant.
Running back I'Tavius Mathers joins the Rebels after being named the The Tennessean's Player of the Year as a junior and senior. As a senior, Mathers rushed for 2,253 yards and 27 touchdowns and was rated the No. 7 player in Tennessee by Rivals.com.
"We are thrilled with our class today, starting with the quarterback position," said Freeze. "Getting the junior college player of the year in Bo Wallace was a big get for us. I'Tavius Mathers, who was the player of the year in the state of Tennessee, was also very big. He is probably the most complete back in the class. He has a lot of physical size to him and great speed."
(COURTESY: Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations)