Lane Kiffin has yet to announce the starting lineup ahead of this weekend’s season opener against Louisville. While nothing is set in stone, here is what we know thus far.
There is no question who the starter will be in Atlanta this weekend. After a little bit of a quarterback competition prior to the 2020 season, this year will be completely up to Matt Corral. During his 10 game slate last season, Corral threw for 3,337 yards and 29 touchdowns. While his numbers speak for themselves, he is focused on cleaning up the mental side of the ball this season and allowing for fewer offensive turnovers. The dark horse Heisman candidate has all the capability in the world to lead his team to a 12-0 season.
The running back room is stacked this year. Not only do they have a preseason first-team All-SEC running back with Jerrion Ealy, but Ole Miss also has Snoop Conner, Henry Parrish Jr. and Kentrell Bullock. Having the depth that the Rebels have this year will be crucial. They led the SEC in rushing a year ago behind leading rusher Jerrion Ealy. In 2020, he had 147 carries for 745 yards. Snoop Conner was close behind him with 93 carries for 421 yards. They combined for a total of 17 touchdowns last season. While head coach Lane Kiffin is typically unpredictable in his offense, it’s safe to say that we are going to see a lot from our backfield this fall.
The wide receivers are the most intriguing of the position groups this year. After the loss of Kenny Yeboah and superstar Elijah Moore, everyone is waiting to see who the new No.1 playmaker will be. Senior Braylon Sanders is most likely to be that guy. Throughout his time at Ole Miss, he has struggled with injuries, never playing more than six games in a season. In 2020, he averaged 26.43 yards per play. Dontario Drummond will be another name to look out for. Drummond had 25 receptions for 417 yards and 7 touchdowns last season and chose to stay at Ole Miss for his extra year of eligibility. Jonathan Mingo is working to make a bigger impact in this offense. Fans saw moments of greatness from the Mississippi native against Kentucky in the 42-41 Rebel victory. Mingo had two touchdowns and appeared to be extremely dominant, but remained pretty quiet for the rest of the season.
If you want to win football games, it starts in the trenches. The offensive line will continue to be one of the strongest position groups on the team. The Rebels are returning four of their five starters on the line, after losing Royce Newman to the Green Bay Packers in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. Losing a starter is never ideal, but it is still a solid unit with returners Nick Broeker, Jeremy James, Caleb Warren and Ben Brown. Ole Miss also added University of Utah transfer Orlando Umana who has been talked about very highly in fall camp as a starting center for this year’s line.
The Ole Miss defense needs a drastic improvement from the defensive line this year. Last year, the Rebels allowed a league-high 211 yards per game rushing, including three teams that topped 300 yards. Ole Miss has been looking and working towards a deeper line, and are hoping they found it. They are returning numerous starters, as well as bringing in a few transfers and junior college players. Isiah Iton and Jamond Gordon are among those that will hopefully change the narrative. In a depth chart released by the University this past week, they have named Iton as the defensive tackle starter. The 2021 recruiting class featured 15 defensive recruits in hopes of adding depth and changing the trajectory of the program.
The linebacker room will feature some veterans as well as some newcomers looking to make an early impact. During their careers, Lakia Henry and Momo Sanogo have played in a combined 56 games. Ole Miss lost leading tackler Jacquez Jones to the transfer portal this offseason ,but quickly found a replacement in the dominant Maryland transfer Chance Campbell. He had 43 tackles last season and was an honorable mention Big Ten player of the year. Cedric Johnson has been making a splash with the media throughout fall camp, and will likely earn the start against Louisville. The true sophomore made a name for himself at the end of last season with three sacks.
The defensive backs this year are going to make or break this defense. The Ole Miss secondary is full of upperclassmen this season led by Keidron Smith, Tylan Knight, A.J. Finley and Jaylon Jones. This group will be especially exciting with Navy transfer Jake Springer and Georgia transfer Otis Reese being eligible. Finley tied for 1st in the SEC with three interceptions, and Otis Reese brought in an interception during the Outback Bowl versus Indiana. With eight of the 26 signees from this year’s recruiting class being defensive backs, the Rebels have plenty of depth and options to pull from. One standout freshman is Tysheem Johnson, who has earned praise from many of the veteran teammates as well as defensive coordinator Chris Partridge. Johnson has been taking significant reps with the two throughout the offseason.