The spring semester at the University of Mississippi has just begun, and with a new year comes new challenges and expectations in the sports world.
Ditto for the big sports at Ole Miss. Will be in the next few days The Grove Report will analyze the current state of these teams at Oxford in a series of columns entitled ‘State of the Programme’.
Much like the President’s State of the Union address, these plays are intended to convey the general feel that surrounds a program here in late January. Yesterday we analyzed men’s basketball and today we dive into football.
The 2022 season started well for Lane Kiffin’s Rebels, starting with a 7-0 record and climbing into the top 10 in the country. However, that start was followed by a 1-5 finish all the way, including a flat fall in the Texas Bowl against the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Since the end of the season it was time for Kiffin and his staff to recruit and hit the transfer portal hard after snagging some key pre-signers like state star Suntarine Perkins.
One of the more intriguing trends for the Portal Rebels is the quarterback position. With Luke Altmyer moving from Oxford this offseason, it was widely believed that Kiffin would need to find his second string quarterback from the portal as Marcel Reed flipped his involvement with Texas A&M.
However, that is easier said than done.
Most players who enter the portal do so for a specific reason, one of which is that they want to see a lot of playtime at their new school. Kiffin went out and snapped up former five-star walker Howard from LSU, but his next hook at the signal caller has put the quarterback’s starting position in question for 2023.
Oklahoma State’s Spencer Sanders is planning to spend his final year of eligibility at Ole Miss and reason would dictate that he hopes to win the starting job in a contest against Dart and Howard. This may come as a surprise to many, considering that while Dart was not among the elite in 2022, he was more than serviceable and inevitably had to improve as a young quarterback.
Scroll to Next
Still, perhaps Kiffin’s idea was, “Why not bring competition into the quarterbacking space, and whoever wins the job automatically becomes better?” That fight for dominance this spring will be Ole Miss’s second in as many years, and how it plays out will likely dictate how the quarterback room looks in the fall, even if someone folds.
Kiffin shifted gears and snagged another big jump out of the “coaching portal” when he landed new defensive coordinator Pete Golding of the Alabama Crimson Tide. There was a time when Golding would have been a candidate for the Oxford head coaching position, and the fact that he was willing to jump from Tuscaloosa to the Rebels says a lot about what Kiffin is building, at least on the surface .
If Ole Miss hopes to get back into the 10-win talk on a daunting schedule next season, things need to get better defensively. That’s why Golding was brought in and we’ll see if he can get the job done.
All in all, it’s always football season in the South, and so is Ole Miss. There will be plenty of storylines throughout the offseason, and one thing is certain: despite the lackluster end of the season, the Ole Miss football program is at its best in a long time.
Follow John Macon on Twitter at @JMakeGillespie.
Hello rebel fans! Want to see the Ole Miss in action? Get your Ole Miss game tickets from SI Tickets here!
Want the latest news and inside information on the rebels? Click here.
Follow The Grove Report on Facebook and Twitter.
Want more Ole Miss Rebels news? Check out the SI.com team page here.