Four-star Ward chooses Ole Miss
Rebels close to home, brother as teammate helped downplay coaching changes
If you heard the Rebels yell, they had good reason, as the nation's No. 9 defensive end, Channing Ward (Aberdeen, Miss./Aberdeen), committed Thursday to Ole Miss. Ward, No. 72 overall in the ESPNU 150 and the No. 2 recruit from the state of Mississippi, gives new Rebels coach Hugh Freeze his first major recruit.
"The main reason why I picked Ole Miss is it was just good for me and my family," Ward said about his decision, which was announced during Thursday's Under Armour All-America Game in St. Petersburg, Fla. "I love the camaraderie there. It's a great fit for me. I can play early. This is just a great thing for us."
Obviously playing into Ward's decision was the fact that his brother, Taurus Ward, is a junior defensive tackle for Ole Miss.
"It helped a lot to know that I will play [with] my brother," Channing Ward said. "He's there if I need to talk with someone. With him there, I got to know all the players and I don't have to get to know guys. I just have to get ready to work. I have to help the team get better. I have to help my team turn around the program. I have to do the best I can."
Like so many others, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound recruit was a little dismayed about the firing of former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt. But Freeze and the new staff rebounded well and landed the terrific pass-rusher.
"It was kind of tough on me, but at the same time, I understand that guys will always leave," Ward said. "I just wanted them to get the coaches in before I made my decision. Personally, I really like Coach Freeze. He's a family guy that seems to have a good family environment there already. He's always excited when he talks to you, and the guy always seems to have a smile on his face. There is nothing down about that guy."
Ward plans to make his official visit to Ole Miss in a few weeks, on Jan. 20. He's hoping to take that time to get to know his position coach, Chris Kiffin.
"We talk every once in a while and we have a good relationship already," Ward said of Kiffin, the younger brother of USC Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin. "I can't wait for my official visit so I can get to know him that much more."
Ward said his decision ultimately came down to two schools, Ole Miss and Alabama. He decided to stay home rather than play for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide.
"It was real close," Ward said. "Ole Miss was just the better fit for me. It's wasn't too hard to tell Alabama no. In the end, you have to do what is best for you because it's your decision."
Now, with recruiting and his decision behind him, Ward can focus on next fall. He's hoping he can make a splash for the Rebels and help them defensively.
"I am not going to sit back and lay around," Ward said. "I will work my tail off. I am not going to college and become a bust. I am going to go in there and play hard."
Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.