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The Clarion Ledger

Five spring storylines to track for Ole Miss football, Lane Kiffin

By David Eckert, Mississippi Clarion Ledger,


OXFORD — Ole Miss football coach Lane Kiffin, generally speaking, is a difficult man to predict.

One thing that's certain, though, is that he'll never leave us with a shortage of things to talk about. A dull, trivial spring practice period? Not on his watch.

Here's a look at five storylines to watch out for during the Rebels' spring practice period.

Quarterbacks, quarterbacks, quarterbacks

Can you have too many good quarterbacks? Kiffin is about to find out.

Ole Miss returns starter Jaxson Dart, who threw for 2,974 yards with 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last season after transferring in from USC. Once backup Luke Altmyer entered the transfer portal last winter, it was apparent the Rebels would need some depth to put behind Dart.

But Kiffin didn't really acquire depth – at least not in the way we usually think about it. Instead, he created the possibility that Dart becomes the depth. Spencer Sanders arrived in Oxford with one season of eligibility remaining, having been a four-year starter at Oklahoma State. Kiffin also landed Walker Howard, a former blue-chip prospect who redshirted last season at LSU.

So, who's got the upper hand in the battle for the starting job? Can Howard compete with the two veterans in front of him? Will the players who don't find themselves on the top of the depth chart stick around?

We probably won't get outright answers to those questions this spring, but we'll get some hints.

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Staff turnover

Kiffin will have five new assistant coaches and two new coordinators in the fold when the Rebels take to the practice field this spring.

The most notable of the bunch is Pete Golding, Ole Miss' new defensive coordinator who arrived this offseason from Alabama.

The media likely won't get the chance to speak to Golding, but the spring should offer us some insight as to how the Rebels' new-look defense will take shape.

Who's for now, who's for later?

Kiffin explained before the offseason began that he believes more teams will be out to secure developmental transfers rather than players who can slide into starting spots instantly.

Of the 13 acquisitions Kiffin made during the offseason, seven have multiple years of eligibility remaining.

So, which of these additions are going to play major roles now? And which players will Kiffin hope to develop for the future?

A running mate for Quinshon Judkins?

This spring will be the first time Quinshon Judkins, who led the SEC in rushing last season as a freshman, will speak to the local media, since Ole Miss does not allow first-year players to do so.

But one of the more interesting storylines for the Rebels this spring involves the rest of Ole Miss' running back room. Zach Evans, who split time in the backfield with Judkins last season, is off for the NFL Draft. Judkins already led the SEC in rushing attempts with 274. In a hypothetical world where Evans doesn't exist and Judkins absorbs his touches, Judkins would have had 418 carries a year ago – 186 more than second-place Re-Mahn Davis.

That's obviously not sustainable. So, will the Rebels adjust their offense? Or will another running back emerge to help take the strain off Judkins' workload?

Looking for go-to targets

Ole Miss completed 239 passes last season.

Departing pass-catchers accounted for 53.6% of those completions, with top receivers Malik Heath and Jonathan Mingo both moving on.

Now, we're left to see where Ole Miss turns to replace that production. At wideout, Kiffin brought in a couple of exciting transfers in former five-star Chris Marshall and prolific Louisiana Tech receiver Tre Harris. The returning Jordan Watkins and Dayton Wade accounted for 449 and 309 receiving yards, respectively.

Elite pass-catching tight end Caden Prieskorn, who racked up 602 receiving yards at Memphis last season, also joins the fold to compete with Michael Trigg.

David Eckert covers Ole Miss for the Clarion Ledger. Email him at or reach him on Twitter @davideckert98.

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