Reports: Jim Harbaugh traveled to Oxford to recruit Ole Miss players to Michigan

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh reportedly flew down to Mississippi on Tuesday to recruit some Ole Miss players. (AP Photo/Tony Ding, File)

After NCAA sanctions were levied to Ole Miss on Friday, the list of players looking to transfer lengthens by the day.

The most notable player granted permission to contact other programs is quarterback Shea Patterson. Patterson, the No. 1 QB recruit in the 2016 class, put up huge numbers when healthy this year for the Rebels. One program reportedly interested in his services is Michigan, and Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh was apparently in Oxford on Tuesday to speak to Patterson and at least one other Ole Miss player.

A photo surfaced on social media from safety Deontay Anderson, who is transferring, eating with Harbaugh. Additionally, a photo of a Michigan plane, apparently in Mississippi, was also posted on social media.

ESPN’s Tom Van Haaren reported that Harbaugh also met with Patterson on Tuesday. Patterson has some connections to the Wolverines.

According to multiple outlets, Patterson, Anderson and potentially a few other Ole Miss players (Van Jefferson, a receiver with 99 catches in two seasons, is one, per The Wolverine), will reportedly visit Michigan this weekend.

At first, Ole Miss was limiting transfer options for players looking to leave, but removed all restrictions on Tuesday after receiving a request for comment from Yahoo Sports. 

“As far as the limitations initially placed on the permission to contact, the restrictions are common,” the athletic department statement to Yahoo Sports said. “Until we were notified [Tuesday] morning, none of the student-athletes had communicated they were unhappy with those restrictions. Frankly, if they had any objections and a legitimate reason to seek transfer to one of the limited schools, we would ordinarily work through those issues with the student-athlete and his family. The student-athlete’s best interest is always the priority. Coach [Matt] Luke and [athletic director] Ross Bjork discussed the matter this morning. To be consistent, they are removing any restrictions on their permission to contact for all those who have requested permission. Our compliance office has reached out to the student-athletes to let them know.”

Michigan’s issues at the quarterback position have been well-documented, so landing Patterson would be a big deal.

Before missing the final five games of the year with a knee injury, Patterson completed 166-of-260 passes for 2,259 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions in just seven games. Patterson’s redshirt was burned late in the 2016 season. He started Ole Miss’ final three games and threw for 860 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.

If Patterson (and other Ole Miss underclassmen) does indeed to transfer, he would presumably have to sit out the 2018 season due to NCAA transfer requirements unless his next school is granted an NCAA waiver. As part of Ole Miss’ NCAA sanctions, players who will be seniors in 2018 can transfer with immediate eligibility because an additional year was added to the school’s bowl ban.

Ole Miss went 6-6 this season with Matt Luke as its interim coach following the firing of Hugh Freeze. Luke had the interim tag lifted after the Rebels beat Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl.

Here is the entire list of the NCAA penalties given to Ole Miss:

• Probation through 2020
• A fine of $5,000 plus one percent of the football’s budget over three years (self-imposed)
• Two-year postseason ban counting 2017
• Two-game conference suspension for Freeze if he’s hired as a head coach somewhere before Nov. 30, 2018. Based on the language in the release, Freeze does not face a penalty if he is hired as an assistant coach.
• Eight-year show-cause for the team’s operations coordinator. During the show-cause he can’t “hold any athletically related duties or have contact with prospective student-athletes and their families.”
• Five-year show-cause for assistant coach who helped facilitate the fraudulent standardized tests. A two-year show cause for another assistant coach.
• Five-year show-cause for the school’s assistant athletic director
• A total of 13 scholarship reductions through 2018-19
• Additional recruiting restrictions and disassociation of boosters

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!