February 4, 2009

Rebels land four-star quarterback

Ole Miss and Raymond Cotton took quite a circuitous route to each other.

The Rebels, looking for their quarterback of the future, first targeted Drew Allen, only to lose him to Oklahoma. Then Ole Miss got a commitment from Clayton Moore, only to eventually pull his scholarship offer after the Louisville, Miss., standout ran into disciplinary problems on his high school team.

Cotton, meanwhile, committed to Auburn early and prepared for his senior season. The Tigers' season unraveled, however, and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin was fired. When Auburn finished 5-7, losing a 36-0 decision to Alabama in the season finale, Tommy Tuberville's tenure on the Plains ended.

That opened things up for Cotton, and Ole Miss made a quick move. The Rebs' whirlwind romance with the four-star quarterback from Fort Meade, Md., came to fruition on Wednesday when Cotton committed to and signed with Ole Miss.

Cotton, a 6-foot-4, 216-pounder, said he chose Ole Miss over Kansas State, Southern Mississippi and others because of the Rebels' "outstanding coaching staff and a great atmosphere."

Cotton visited Ole Miss earlier this month, and his relationship with Rebel offensive coordinator Kent Austin grew strong.

"I wanted to play for a coach that could help me become the best in the nation," Cotton said.

Cotton, ranked as the No. 11 prospect in the state of Maryland and the No. 11 dual-threat quarterback in the nation by Rivals.com, is expected to redshirt next season and then fight to be the quarterback who replaces Jevan Snead in 2011.

"Only time will tell for sure," Cotton said. "I'm going to come in and work hard to be prepared so when my number is called, I'll be ready. I believe the SEC Championship Game and a berth in a BCS bowl game will become an annual event and I am really excited and honored to be a part of that."

Cotton, who passed for 2,243 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior, gave Ole Miss a private commitment weeks ago so that he could announce his decision publicly today at Fort Meade. Keeping that decision out of the public eye, however, sometimes proved to be difficult.

"My dad gave me some great advice," Cotton said. "He said, 'You don't have to answer your phone, or I can just cut it off.'"

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