Quinshon Judkins runs in Ole Miss vs Kentucky on October 1st, 2022 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, MS. Photos by Joshua McCoy/Ole Miss Athletics
Parrish Alford previews the football season for the Ole Miss, pointing to several question marks as the No. 22 Rebels kick off the season.
The Rebels are ranked No. 22 in each of the two major preseason polls which means voters are either forgiving or forgetful.
Ole Miss won its first seven games last year before losing its last four, and five of its last six.
For fans, more frustrating than the losses was coach Lane Kiffin’s in-season flirtation with Auburn before committing to Ole Miss with a $9 million salary.
Kiffin and the Rebels were dialed in against Alabama on Nov. 12 and had a chance to win on their final drive, but couldn’t pass the 14 and lost 30-24.
The last three games included blowout losses to Arkansas and Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl, as well as an Egg Bowl loss that saw the Rebels’ vaunted rushing offense managed just 78 yards on 39 carries against Mississippi State.
The Egg Bowl was not the norm. Ole Miss finished third nationally in rushing offense with 256.6 yards per game.
The Rebels return the SEC’s leading rusher in Quinshon Judkins who had 1,567 yards and 16 touchdowns as a true freshman.
Ole Miss lacks a proven playmaker at receiver, but whoever ends up at quarterback should have two quality tight ends in Michael Trigg and Memphis transfer Caden Prieskorn. Trigg just needs to remain healthy and focused.
Kiffin continues to play coy about who will start at quarterback between last year’s starter Jaxson Dart and Oklahoma State transfer Spencer Sanders. He has not named a starter for the first game against Mercer.
Kffin pulled a similar move last year between Dart and now-transferred Luke Altmyer before ultimately naming Dart the starter. It looks like Dart will ultimately survive the challenge from Sanders with a full year of experience in Kiffin’s offense.
The Rebels return four starters on the offensive line.
Kiffin would like to rely on Judkins less and may be able to do that if quarterback play improves. Dart was inconsistent last year with 11 interceptions and three fumbles.
Part of Kiffin’s revived commitment to Ole Miss included luring defensive coordinator Pete Golding from Alabama.
Golding has some nice pieces to work with in ends Jared Ivy and Cedric Johnson, but overall just four starters remain from a squad that was ninth in the SEC in scoring defense.
Golding’s Alabama squad was second at 18.15 points per game.
The star quality that seems to make Kiffin a part of every job discussion likely took a hit with last year’s embarrassing finish.
Part of that finish was the air rushing out of the balloon when Ole Miss didn’t beat Alabama, and part of it was Kiffin’s wandering eyes.
He needs to deliver something unexpected to justify the money and resources Ole Miss AD Keith Carter has put into the program.
Ole Miss Rebels Schedule
- Sept. 2 Mercer
- Sept. 9 at Tulane
- Sept. 16 Georgia Tech
- Sept. 23 at Alabama
- Sept. 30 LSU
- Oct. 7 Arkansas
- Oct. 21 at Auburn
- Oct. 28 Vanderbilt
- Nov. 4 Texas A&M
- Nov. 11 at Georgia
- Nov. 18 ULM
- Nov. 23 at MSU