December 11, 2010

Rebels land commitment from four-star cornerback

Floyd Raven loved his experience at Ole Miss' elite camp in June.

Ole Miss loved him back. The Rebels' staff, wowed by his performance against top wide receivers such as Nick Brassell and Donte Moncrief, not only offered him a scholarship on the spot but also made him a priority.

Raven loved the time at Ole Miss so much, in fact, that he very nearly committed to the Rebels on the spot.

However, the four-star cornerback from Reserve (East St. John) La., waited. His stock rose in the process. Raven became a top priority at Texas A&M as well, and he "fell in love" with College Station on an official visit there last month. Arizona offered, as did Utah, Utah State and others.

Raven said all along he wouldn't make a decision until he took an official visit to Ole Miss, one that would allow him to see more than the Rebels' football program.

"To be honest, with me being a black male, I wanted to see everything for myself," Raven told Saturday evening, hours after giving his verbal commitment to the Ole Miss staff. "That's why I was slow to commit. When I got here (Friday), it was the total opposite of what I heard. My girlfriend, mom and everyone totally loved it. I loved what I heard about the academics. I like that there are only about 14,000 students. Professors learn your name; you're not just a number. I love the academic support facilities."

Raven, a 6-foot-2, 190-pounder ranked by as the No. 8 prospect in Louisiana and the No. 8 cornerback and No. 123 overall player nationally, said earlier this week he planned to take "a checklist" with him to Oxford this weekend. He didn't specify what was on that list, but he gave some hints Saturday.

Raven said rival schools had repeatedly made him aware of a 2009 Ku Klux Klan demonstration on the Ole Miss campus, one that was met by a student-led, multi-racial, non-violent protest of the Klan's presence. The implication from rival recruiters was racism was a problem at Ole Miss. During his trip to Oxford in June, Raven didn't get that impression.

"I had to see it for myself," Raven said. "I talked to a lot of the players and they didn't have any problems like that. Then I talked to Coach (Houston) Nutt. Coach Nutt shocked me. He was more different than I thought. I thought he'd be a real conservative guy, but he's kind of young. He's my type of person. He really gets along with you. He cracks jokes all day. He's the kind of guy you could go talk to about anything."

Raven said he spent Friday night talking individually to current Ole Miss players such as safety Damien Jackson and linebacker D.T. Shackelford. He asked them about their experiences off the field and sought their thoughts on what went wrong on the field in 2010, when the Rebels went 4-8 overall and 1-7 in the Southeastern Conference.

"They all had nothing but good things to say about the school," Raven said. "Everybody has their bad years. A lot of schools are down in the dumps, and then players come in and turn it around. It was a concern at first, to be honest, but after coming here and talking to players, they knew what they did wrong. I talked to them individually, and all of them said they knew what they needed to do get back on track and have a winning season."

Raven figures to compete immediately for playing time in Oxford. Cornerback is one of the thinnest spots on the Rebels' roster, but Raven said nothing was guaranteed and he's taking nothing for granted.

"It's the SEC," Raven said. "It's the toughest league in the country. They have guys already here and I know they have junior college guys coming in. I'm not scared of competition. That empowers me. When I was at the camp, I had to compete."

Raven said he's finished with recruiting. He said he won't take any other visits.

"They say Momma knows best," Raven said. "She felt comfortable with it. That kind of cleared it up for me. I think I'm going to hang it up here. I'm going to lay my head in Oxford the next four years."

The weekend's official visit will wrap up Sunday, and Raven will return to the New Orleans area to complete his senior season. However, Saturday night, as he prepared to spend some more time with his future teammates in his future home, Raven was reflective.

"Two years ago, man, I was thinking about finishing high school and finding something to do," Raven said. "I was thinking about attending a community college of some sort. I didn't expect this. (Former East St. John's) Coach Larry Dauterive really believed in me. He is a real good coach and I love him a lot. He played a big role in where I am today."

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