- Greg Ostendorf, ESPN Staff Writer
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ESPN 300 offensive lineman Rod Taylor (Jackson, Miss./Calloway) received his first offer from the University of Alabama the summer after his freshman year. On Wednesday, he turned down the Crimson Tide and committed to the in-state school, Ole Miss.
“It was coaches,” Taylor said. “Coach [Hugh] Freeze is real cool. He’s a real man. He keeps it 100 percent with you. I like the facilities and the coaches. The players are cool, too.”
Calloway High School head coach Daryl Jones knew he had something special with Taylor early on. He was the first one to introduce his star lineman to the UA coaching staff, and once Alabama offered, the recruiting process took off.
For Ole Miss, Freeze gets most of the credit for the Rebels’ success, but it was assistant coach Derrick Nix who made the biggest impact on Taylor.
“To be honest, I just think it was Coach Nix, his recruiting coach,” Jones said. "The personality that he has, and the relationships that he builds with the kids, I think that’s the No. 1 thing. They understand him. They feel him. They field a relationship, and it seems real to him.
“When they go up there, they’re treated like rock stars. It makes anybody feel wanted.”
Taylor becomes the 18th commitment for Ole Miss and the fourth ranked in the ESPN 300. He also joins his Calloway teammates, wide receiver Dayall Harris and outside linebacker Ronald Walker, who already have given their verbal pledge to the Rebels.
The success in Oxford comes on the heels of last year’s class, which finished No. 5 nationally in the ESPN class rankings. Even Taylor was surprised with how well Ole Miss finished.
“To be honest, I knew about Robert Nkemdiche,” he said. “I didn’t know about anybody else. I was surprised, but Ole Miss is just doing their job.”
Although Alabama and Ole Miss were at the top of his list throughout the process, Taylor also considered the likes of Florida State, Georgia and UCLA before making his decision.
ESPN 300 offensive lineman Rod Taylor (Jackson, Miss./Calloway) received his first offer from the University of Alabama the summer after his freshman year.