Landing three five-star players from the Class of 2013 -- and the No. 7 overall class in the country -- was a boon for Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze. After the Rebels' 38-35 victory over Vanderbilt to open the season, it is clear that the class is already justifying the hype.
The three at Ole Miss -- Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil -- were not alone as 24 of the 33 players who earned a five-star ranking in the recently signed class saw action during the first weekend of the season. Three more players could be added to that total when Pittsburgh and Florida State close the slate of games tonight.
Freeze did not let the young players talk to the media, but the second-year coach was glowing in his praise.
"I can't stress how good of kids Laquon and Tony (Conner) and Laremy and Robert are," he told RebelGrove.com. "I was a little concerned that maybe they'd have a little too much ego. Not at all. They're like sponges; they just want to compete.
"Laquon, gosh dog, he didn't play like a freshman. Neither did Laremy. Neither did Austin Golson. Neither did Tony."
Nkemdiche was the No. 1 player in the Rivals100 presented by Under Armour for the class of 2013. Treadwell was No. 5 and Tunsil No. 14.
Neither Connor nor Golson was a five-star, but each was a nationally ranked four-star. Connor was No. 88 and Golson No. 118.
All played a major role in the victory.
Nkemdiche started at defensive end and collected two solo tackles -- one for a loss. He converted a fourth down on a fake punt, running for 11 yards.
Treadwell became the first Ole Miss receiver to catch nine passes since Mike Espy in 2006. He finished the evening with 82 yards.
Tunsil and Golson did not start on the offensive line, but when the two were inserted into the game it was an immediate and dramatic improvement for the unit. They aided in the turnaround in play from quarterback Bo Wallace.
"We had an OK first quarter, but in the second quarter we kind of got out of our rhythm and had some third-and-longs," Luke said. "We went in at halftime and said, 'We've got to do what we do, and that's play fast.' Those young guys are athletic, and they can play fast. So that's what we did."
Conner did not start, but his interception in the first quarter gave Ole Miss the ball at the Vanderbilt 31 and led to the opening field goal of the game.
Conner added three tackles and a pass breakup as the young group of players showed well.
Ole Miss will take on Southeast Missouri State next week before a five-game stretch will test the mettle and maturity of its players. Freeze will lead the team on the road against Texas, Alabama and Auburn before returning to Oxford for home dates with Texas A&M and LSU.
How the team navigates the stretch will likely be on the shoulders of the young players, but the opening week result didn't drop expectations.
Nkemdiche started at defensive end and made his presence known by affecting many plays. His final stat line for the evening was two tackles with one tackle for a loss. He also carried once for 11 yards on a fake punt. Season stats: Two tackles. One tackles for loss. 1 rush for 11 yards.
Hargreaves saw action in the Gators' 24-6 victory over Toledo. He did not record a tackle but made an interception in the third quarter and returned it 15 yards. Season stats: Zero tackles. One interception for 15 yards.
Smith started at outside linebacker for the Fighting Irish in their 28-6 victory over Temple. The talented prospect was limited in his impact, accounting for an assist on one tackle and no solo tackles. Season stats: Zero solo tackles. One assist.
Lawson was in action against Washington State. He did not start and did not register a tackle, but got onto the stat sheet with a quarterback hurry in the 31-24 victory. Season stats: Zero tackles. One quarterback hurry.
Treadwell started in the slot and was one of the top targets nationally. He caught nine passes for 82 yards and was on the receiving end of a two-point conversion in the 38-35 victory over Vanderbilt. Season stats: Nine catches for 82 yards.
Green was one of several Michigan players to find the end zone on the ground in the 59-9 beating of Central Michigan. He carried 11 times for 58 yards and a score. His burst of 30 yards was the second-longest rush for the Wolverines. Season stats: 11 carries for 58 yards and one touchdown.
Fuller started at cornerback in the season-opening loss to Alabama. He recorded four tackles and was back on two punt returns. His two chances with the ball in his hands resulted in a loss of 1 yard. Season stats: Four tackles. Two punt returns for minus-1 yard.
Cravens started at strong safety in a 30-13 victory over Hawaii. He had three solo tackles and an assist. He made an interception in the first quarter to set up the Trojans' first score. Season stats: Three tackles. One assist. One interception for 0 yards.
Jones saw significant playing time in a 21-3 loss at Oklahoma State. He registered two assists and was given half of a tackle for loss. He also had one quarterback hurry. Season stats: Two assists. One half tackles for loss. One quarterback hurry.
Vanderdoes did not start for UCLA in its 58-20 victory over Nevada, but he was active on the defensive line. He registered six tackles and two tackles for loss. Season stats: Six tackles. Two tackles for loss.
Hackenberg got the start in his first game as quarterback, and he guided the Nittany Lions to a 23-17 win over Syracuse. He completed 22 of 31 passes for 278 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Season stats: 22-for-31, 278 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions.
Adams did not start in Auburn's 31-24 victory over Washington State, but he saw significant time on the field. He recorded two tackles, a sack, and a quarterback hurry. Season stats: Two tackles. One sack. One quarterback hurry.
Issac participated in special teams and got into the backfield for the final play of the game. He gained four yards on one carry as time expired in the 30-13 win over Hawaii.
Season stats: One carry for four yards.
Mizzell was back for the opening kickoff and returned it 25 yards to start the season. He finished with seven carries for 16 yards. He returned three kickoffs for 56 yards. He also fumbled in the 19-16 victory over BYU. Season stats: Seven carries for 16 yards. Three kickoff returns for 56 yards.