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Cloud of NCAA investigation hampers Ole Miss recruiting efforts

OXFORD, MS. – Mississippi’s signing day was downright dull compared to recent years, and recruiting wasn’t much fun for coach Hugh Freeze leading up to Wednesday.

The Rebels managed to grab a couple highly regarded recruits, including in-state defensive back D.D. Bowie, but the program figures to finish in the 30s nationally and in the bottom half of the SEC according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

That’s a big difference from recent years under Freeze, when Ole Miss was often among the nation’s elite in recruiting.

But the Rebels are in the midst of a long-running NCAA investigation _ including possible recruiting violations _ that have hampered the school’s recruiting efforts. Ole Miss already self-imposed a penalty of three scholarships for this year, which is part of the reason this year’s class only has 21 signees.

Freeze admitted that recruiting was difficult at times.

“It was ugly,” he said. “I didn’t enjoy it. You take great pride in how you do things. That’s not to say we’ve been perfect, but I know the value I place on this job.”

Still, the Rebels filled some important needs, particularly at linebacker. Ole Miss was among the worst teams in the SEC on defense last season.

“Obviously, it’s well documented that’s a place we needed to improve,” Freeze said.

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Other things to know:

Top 25 Class: No

Best in class: Bowie, DB, Morton, Mississippi. The 6-foot-1 speedster could help the Rebels quickly in the secondary.

Best of the rest: DL Markel Winters, LB Mohamed Sanogo. Winters is an early enrollee while Sanogo signed on Wednesday. Both players have a chance to contribute early for an Ole Miss defense that struggled last season.

Late addition: WR Braylon Sanders. The Rebels pulled the 6-foot, 172-pound receiver out of Hogansville, Georgia, to add to an aleady deep position.

One that got away: RB Cordarrian Richardson. The Rebels hoped to land the four-star player out of Memphis, but he chose Maryland instead.

How they’ll fit in: The Rebels are already pretty good on the offensive of the ball thanks to the return of young potential stars like QB Shea Patterson and OT Greg Little. But several of the defensive players _ especially the linebackers _ could see some early playing time.