Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said he always felt good about his chances of signing Van Jefferson, who was committed to UGA for six months and nearly enrolled early in school with the Bulldogs.
Jefferson, the 4-star receiver from Brentwood, Tenn., was one of this year’s biggest recruiting soap operas.
After deciding at the last minute to cancel his scheduled early enrollment at UGA this past January, Jefferson went on an official visit to Oklahoma. Upon his return, he switched his commitment from UGA to Ole Miss.
Jefferson wasn’t finished. He still decided to take a recruiting trip to Michigan on the last weekend before signing day and was wooed by new coach Jim Harbaugh.
And there was more drama on signing day. Jefferson delayed his ceremony at least twice that day, creating speculation that he was contemplating a switch to either UGA or Michigan. He ended up signing with Ole Miss.
“Van Jefferson is another kid that we were on really early,” Freeze told the AJC.
“And he actually tried to commit to us early on in the process. I knew that he and his mom felt like Ole Miss was a good fit for him. And then his dad never really got to come here early on, and I think he had some ties to Georgia. Maybe that’s the reason (his commitment) went there early.
“But Van never quit communicating with us, and that’s why we always felt like we were always in it. And whatever the reasons were for why he de-committed from Georgia, when that happened, we really felt like we were in good position. And we felt that way all along, even when the talk started about Oklahoma or Michigan or others. Van was always telling me ‘I’m pretty sure I’m coming with y’all, coach.’
“(Assistant Maurice Harris) did a good job building relationships with the people around Van, including his high school coach. And then our guys worked hard on the father, Shawn, in those last couple of months.”
Did Freeze get nervous with Jefferson’s delays on signing day?
“No, I didn’t get nervous because we were in contact with the mom,” he said. “On the initial (delay), his mom called and said her daughter had to be somewhere that morning that she had to take. She said ‘Look, it’s going to be 11 a.m. before I can get to that school.’ I wasn’t real concerned. I talked to the dad later that morning, and I still felt really good about it. And I never thought that we were going to lose him.”
Ole Miss also signed two players from the state of Georgia last month – Sandy Creek running back Eric Swinney and Lovejoy defensive back Montrell Custis.
“Man, we had been working (Swinney) since his sophomore year,” Freeze said. “We’ve got a good connection there at his high school, obviously with Mike Hilton and Chris Williams. They had already come with us (to Ole Miss) and they’re from there.
“We did not have to have a running back because of number of running backs we had on scholarship at the time. And we were able to say ‘We are targeting one guy.’ We never wavered on that. If we got him, that was great. If we didn’t, we were OK. We just decided to go all-in with Swinney, and I think that kind of swung in our favor.”