Going into his first game week as head coach of Ole Miss Rebels football, Lane Kiffin has left plenty of question marks where fans expected to see a set starting lineup. As of now, the Rebels plan to move forward with committees at multiple positions, including quarterback and running back. Here is everything Kiffin and the team have released so far regarding who will be on the field against the Florida Gators on Saturday.
The quarterback situation is very similar to that of last season, with Kiffin saying that it is likely that fans will see John Rhys Plumlee and Matt Corral used throughout the first game, regardless of who is starting.
Carries will be split between four different running backs, but the majority of snaps will be taken by returning sophomore and freshman all-American player Jerrion Ealy and new-comer Henry Paris Jr.. It is also likely that Snoop Conner will be in the mix for the Rebels as well.
This season, his Rebels’ offensive line is younger than usual. With more than one freshman starting and offensive line veteran Eli Johnson opting out of the season, pundits across the SEC are unsure of how the core will perform on Saturday against Florida.
While the ever-pressing issue of who will be playing QB remains, the Rebels hope that their receiving core can capitalize on some of their success from last year.
Elijah Moore, now a junior, is set to handle slot receiver duties, and Johnathan Mingo, the sophomore out of Brandon who started all 12 games last year, is posed to be out wide alongside senior Dontario Drummond, who also started all 12 games last season.
With these experienced wide receivers and the strong backfield, the offensive could resemble that of the Hugh Freeze era in Oxford.
The defensive line has zero starters returning this year. Benito Jones, Josiah Coatney and Austrian Robinson were key factors in the Rebel defense during the previous season, and they will be hard to replace. Luckily, there will be quite a few returners that will be expected to step up and make a difference.
Tariqious Tisdale, Ryder Anderson and KD Hill will likely fill those roles this season. All three were able to make big plays last year, but they will also have help from four redshirt freshmen.
Tavius Robinson will get the start at the buck position with Sam Williams as a backup. Robinson has yet to take a snap as a NCAA player. However, the 6’7” Canadian proved his ability to adapt to defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin’s defense, and will start on Saturday. Williams, a starter last season, had to take off a significant amount of Fall Camp time because of a suspension looming from sexual battery charges that were dropped a few weeks ago. He will likely see significant time this weekend, but will back up Robinson against Florida.
The linebackers are the best returning position group for Ole Miss, and this is good news for the Durkin. Durkin said he believes strongly that these players will need to continue to step up as leaders in order for this team to be successful.
Jacquez Jones and Lakia Henry were named the starters against Florida, according to the depth chart released on Monday. Ideally, they will continue to put up big numbers after they dominated the field last season. In their last 12 games, Jones made 71 tackles, and Henry made 88 tackles.
The backups for this position will also play a key role in this defense’s success. Momo Sonogo and Ashanti Cistrunk will help to bring fresh legs and energy into the game.
With a position group full of fresh faces, the defensive backs will have their hands full with the Florida offense. Going into week one, the two starting corners will be Keidron Smith and Jakorey Hawkins. Smith had three forced fumbles and one interception last season, along with 33 tackles. While Hawkins is a lesser-known name, he was able to prove himself to the new coaching staff and earned the starting job.
Along with Keidron Smith, Jaylon Jones is one of the veterans of the group. The new Chucky Mullins Award recipient will be one of the starting safeties, Jones is in his fifth year of football after overcoming injuries in two consecutive years. Even when dealing with the injuries, Jones managed to have an impact on the defense year after year.
Returning for his true sophomore season, A.J. Finley will earn his first start this Saturday. He appeared in all 12 games last season and managed 12 solo tackles while also recovering two fumbles on special teams. His role last year was predominantly special teams, so this starting role will allow him to make even more of an effect for the defense.
With Otis Reese still not being given eligibility, Daylen Gill will step in to play star — a hybrid that combines linebacker and defensive back positions. Gill, the Jones County Community College transfer, was originally expected to play linebacker.