Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has significantly upgraded the talent level in Oxford with back-to-back signing classes ranked in the top 20 nationally.
The Rebels’ most recent class was ranked No. 17 by ESPN, coming on the heels of a 2013 class ranked No. 5.
A priority in this class was the offensive line, and Ole Miss pulled in three four-star prospects up front to go along with Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson a year ago. Rod Taylor of Jackson (Miss.) Calloway High School was the crown jewel and will be on campus this summer.
The 6-3, 323-pound Taylor, ranked No. 56 overall among ESPN 300 prospects and the No. 2 guard prospect nationally, took some time to talk with us this week about his future with the Rebels. He’s wrapping up his high school basketball season on Friday night, as Calloway takes on Vicksburg for the Mississippi Class 5A state championship.
Here's our chat with Taylor:
Q: What’s your plan the next few months as you get ready to report to Ole Miss this summer?
Rod Taylor: Just working hard, working out every day and trying to get better at my craft. It’s a big jump, and I want to make sure I’m in the best shape I can be in when I get there.
Q: What has Ole Miss told you in terms of whether you’ll be playing guard or tackle?
Taylor: I can play both. I played guard and tackle in high school, so it really doesn’t matter to me. They tell me I’ll probably be a guard. I just want to be out there helping the team.
Q: What is your strength as an offensive lineman?
Taylor: I feel I’m better as a pass-protector, but I can also run-block. I know I can get better at both.
Q: Anybody in particular you’ve modeled your game after or a player or two you’ve watched more than others over the years?
Q: Who are some of the players you’ve been talking to at Ole Miss, and what has their advice to you been?
Taylor: I’ve been talking to Laremy (Tunsil) and Robert (Nkemdiche) a lot, and they’re ready for all of us to get there. They just keep telling me to make sure I’m in shape when I get there. I’d like to get down to 315.
Q: You narrowed it down to Alabama and Ole Miss. Was it difficult to tell Alabama no, and what sold you on the Rebels?
Taylor: It was difficult for me toward the end, just making sure. When everything first started, it wasn’t difficult. I felt at home at Ole Miss. It never really felt that way at Alabama, and that was the difference. I chose Ole Miss because that’s where I’m from, and it was important for me to represent where I’m from.
Q: Did you grow up an Ole Miss fan?
Taylor: No, I really grew up an Alabama fan.
Q: When did you start to feel it turning toward Ole Miss during the recruiting process?
Taylor: When (offensive line) coach (Jeff) Stoutland left Alabama to go to the Eagles. That's when I felt it turning.
Q: When you look at the nucleus of young talent there at Ole Miss, can you guys win an SEC championship in these next couple of years?
Taylor: I really feel like we have what it takes. We have a lot of talent. We just have to put it all together and come together as one. We all have to make sure we have the same mindset.