When No. 3-ranked Ole Miss and No. 25-ranked Florida square off on Saturday night, the two teams will feature some of the top talent in the country. Each team has finished inside of the top 20 of the recruiting class rankings in each of the last three seasons. During that same time period, the Gators finished with two top-10 recruiting classes, while the Rebels finished inside the top-10 once.
Those three recruiting classes have done well for each team, however, there’s one class in particular -- the 2013 recruiting class -- that has been particularly integral to each team.
In the 2013 class, Ole Miss signed several prospects who are All-American candidates, including Robert Nkemdiche, the No. 1-ranked player in the country in 2013, as well as other well-known players Laquon Treadwell, Tony Conner (out with injury) and Laremy Tunsil, who has yet to play this year because of an NCAA investigation. Though not as highly ranked coming out of high school, the Rebels also signed key contributors in the 2013 class including Evan Engram and Quincy Adeboyejo.
Florida, meanwhile, landed several stars of its own in their 2013 class. Vernon Hargreaves III was the third-ranked prospect in the ESPN 300, while Kelvin Taylor was the No. 1-ranked running back. The class also produced several starters such as safety Keanu Neal, wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, linebacker Jarrad Davis, defensive tackles Joey Ivie and Caleb Brantley and offensive linemen Cameron Dillard and Antonio Riles.
While the two programs are in much different places, the 2013 recruiting class has had a major impact for both schools. The on-field talent is evident, but it goes deeper.
For Ole Miss, landing a top-five recruiting class really started to change the perception of the program with recruits. It wasn’t just a one-year fluke for head coach Hugh Freeze. The Rebels followed up the 2013 class with the 17th-ranked class in 2014, the 19th-ranked class in 2015 and combined with the success on the field, the Rebels currently have the seventh-ranked 2016 recruiting class in the nation. The class, which consists of 19 commits including nine ranked in the ESPN 300, includes the No. 2-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the country, Shea Patterson and five-star defensive tackle Benito Jones.
In addition to Patterson and Jones, the Rebels are in the hunt for a few other top prospects including five-star offensive tackle Greg Little and other highly ranked targets Nigel Knott, Deontay Anderson, Drake Davis and Jeffrey Simmons.
Florida is in an entirely different place as a program. Though former head coach Will Muschamp recruited at a very high level during his time in Gainesville, the Gators could never get it going on the field. Muschamp was fired after last season and Jim McElwain took over. While there always seems to be a transition period, the Gators are 4-0, having have won three of their four games by seven points or less. The talent and experience from the 2013 class is a big reason why.
After McElwain was able to salvage last year’s class and finish with the No. 20 class, the Gators currently have the 19th-ranked class. Florida has commitments from three ESPN 300 members including wide receiver Josh Hammond and defensive backs Chauncey Gardner and Quincy Lenton. Florida has positioned itself nicely for several ESPN 300 prospects including five-star prospects Shavar Manuel and Dexter Lawrence, as well as Antonneous Clayton, Nate Craig-Myers and have a chance at flipping Miami wide receiver commit Sam Bruce.
There’s still a long way to go in the season and until national signing day, but one thing is for sure, Ole Miss and Florida can thank their 2013 class for their teams' current success and as well as it having a big part in future recruiting success.