September 21, 2010

Notebook: Slow start not bothering Rebs' targets

Floyd Raven is surprised that Ole Miss has gotten off to such a disappointing start, losing home games to Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt in the first three weeks of the season.

However, the four-star cornerback from Reserve (East St. John), La., isn't looking at the Rebels any differently. Instead, Raven's evaluation of Ole Miss is likely going to be based on two things -- his official visit to Oxford later this year and the success _ or lack thereof _ the Rebels have in their pursuit of several other key, nationally-ranked prospects.

"I've got a couple of people I want to commit there in my mind," Raven said Monday night, "(players) that I feel may turn the Rebels around in a couple of years in order for me to feel comfortable about going to a winning team."

Specifically, Raven admitted he was referring to a trio of four-star prospects from Mississippi -- wide receivers Tobias Singleton and Nickalos Brassell and cornerback Jermaine Whitehead. Raven said he has had no real contact with those players since the camp circuit this summer, but he's following their recruiting. Brassell and Singleton have Ole Miss at or near the top of their respective lists, while Whitehead has verbally committed to Mississippi State.

Raven has been in steady contact with Ole Miss and Texas A&M coaches this month. He's attended an LSU game, he said, but he implied he and the Tigers' staff haven't been conversing. Raven said Ole Miss is recruiting him hard, "but like I said, I got guys I want to come there."

One of Raven's friends from the camp circuit, Madison (Bob Jones), Ala., three-star wide receiver Collins Moore, said he had talked to several of the 19 prospects who, like him, are committed to sign with Ole Miss in February. Moore said some of those players are "getting mad," though he added that all of them are telling him that they plan to "stay for sure."

Those sentiments were echoed by Destrehan, La., four-star center Ethan Hutson Monday night. Hutson, who committed to Ole Miss in July, made the drive from south Louisiana to Oxford early Saturday and was on hand for the Rebels' SEC opener against Vanderbilt.

"I enjoyed it, but we had to go early, so I didn't get a chance to stop by the Grove like I had planned," Hutson said. "I talked to some of the coaches before the game."

Hutson admitted that while he didn't expect Ole Miss' season to start the way it has and he's interested to see how the Rebels respond to the early adversity, the losses "haven't affected my decision." Further, Hutson said, he doesn't foresee a scenario that would lead to him re-evaluating his choice.

"If they don't win another game, I don't think that would really affect my decision that much," Hutson said. "I never know, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't -- unless they fired Houston (Nutt)."

Hutson said he visited with other commitments and prospects at Saturday's game. Their observations, Hutson said, had more to do with the environment at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium than the game itself.

"They noticed that a lot of people left early from the stands, and that was a disappointment, but I understand," Hutson said. "It was an early game and it wasn't the way people I had hoped it would turn out."

Like his peers, Sicklerville (Timber Creek), N.J., four-star athlete Damiere Byrd has noticed Ole Miss' slow start, but it hasn't concerned him.

"A slow start happens to everybody," Byrd said. "But they will bounce back in SEC play and make an impact."

Byrd plans to start his official visits in the coming weeks. He'll visit Iowa on Oct. 2 for the Hawkeyes' date with Penn State and then travel to South Carolina one week later for the Gamecocks' clash with top-ranked Alabama. Byrd, who has been in steady contact with Ole Miss wide receivers coach Ron Dickerson Jr., said he plans to visit Oxford prior to making his decision at some point after the season.

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