A year ago, Tyler Siskey was between jobs at Arkansas State and Ole Miss. A year later, he has people wondering how Ole Miss could be on the verge of a top 10 recruiting class.
Well, let’s ask the Rebels’ coordinator of recruiting development, an Anniston native who will officially complete his first year on the job Feb. 14. Get ready, because here comes his sales pitch.
“I’ve said this from day one. The University of Mississippi sells itself, hands down,” the 35-yearold former Donoho School standout said. “You add hard work to that, and you make a successful plan, period.
“It’s a great university with great leadership, and I think it sells itself.”
Maybe so, but it’s not often one hears “Ole Miss” and “possible top-10 class” in the same sentence. The Rebels have raised some recruiting buzz under second-year head coach Hugh Freeze and his staff, with Siskey playing a key role.
As of this writing, recruiting site 247sports has Ole Miss’s list of 22 commitments ranked 11th nationally. Rivals.com has Ole Miss tied with Auburn for 11th, and Scout.com has Ole Miss at 13th.
Today is National Signing Day Eve, and five-star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell leads a class that includes eight four-star prospects, according to Rivals.
The Rebels have also gotten in the game for defensive end Robert Nkemdice, the nation’s top overall prospect, and five-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, the No. 14 overall prospect.
This follows a season that saw Ole Miss break through on the field, as well, going 7-6 and beating Pittsburgh 38-17 in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Freeze’s first season. The Rebels had gone 6-17 over 2010 and 2011, resulting in the firing of former head coach Houston Nutt.
Freeze came to Ole Miss from Arkansas State and brought several of his former assistants, including Siskey.
Siskey coached wide receivers at A-State and was part of a skeleton staff that stayed in Jonesboro through the Red Wolves’ 38-20 loss to Northern Illinois on the GoDaddy.com Bowl. He called the offensive plays in that game.
About a month later, Ole Miss announced his hiring in a behind-the-scenes role with recruiting.
Getting back to on-field coaching “is always in the back of my mind,” Siskey said. He pursued Jacksonville State’s head coaching vacancy but said “that stuff will take care of itself, sooner or later.”
It will, especially if Siskey keeps doing his current job so well. He’s essentially the strategist behind Ole Miss’ recruiting efforts, a tall task for one of only two SEC West Division programs to never play in the league’s title game.
Those two teams include new West member Texas A&M, which played its first SEC season in 2012. Until then, Ole Miss was the only West team not to play in Atlanta on that first Saturday in December.
To compete in the West, Ole Miss has to knock heads with teams that have won five of the past six national championships. That includes Nick Saban-led Alabama, which has won three of the past four.
Alabama and LSU typically also top the charts in recruiting, as well, and have top-five classes for 2013.
As Ole Miss tries to compete, Siskey plays a key role, evaluating film of recruits from all over the country year-round and assessing the ones that come to campus for camps and visits. That’s when NCAA rules allow him to talk to them.
“There are no off days. There are no off months,” he said. “It’s like a doctor being on call all the time.”
A year ago, Siskey said Ole Miss hoped to recruit nationally. The Rebels’ current class of 2013 commitments includes southern prospects from Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas, but Ole Miss plucked Treadwell out of Illinois.
Rivals rates Treadwell as the nation’s top receiver prospect.
Ole Miss also has a public commitment from Indiana four-star Elijah Daniel, though he visited Auburn this past weekend. Rivals rates him the No. 8 defensive end prospect.
“It’s just trying to find the right guys to fit our scheme and fit us with their personality and character-wise,” Siskey said. “We’re going to try to identify guys that fit us the best, regardless of where they are, and try not to use that as a limitation.
“We’re going to try to work as hard as we can to get those guys to come with us.”
Success so far, and not a bad year’s work for a guy whose biggest claim to fame was having been Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron’s offensive coordinator at St. Paul’s Episcopal High School in Mobile. Now, he’s the behind-the-scenes guy coordinating Ole Miss’s eye-catching recruiting breakthroughs.
The job sounds harder than it is.
“I don’t feel it’s stressful, because I love what I do,” he said. “I really don’t feel like I have a job. Don’t tell nobody, but I’d probably do it for free.”