The Grove Bowl is back in action Saturday as Ole Miss hosts its annual spring scrimmage game where fans can catch a preview of the new-look football team.
The players are assigned by the coaches to either the “Red team” or “Blue team.” They then play a full-contact 60 minute game.
This year’s Grove Bowl will feature a lot of exciting and talented new faces both on the offensive and defensive ends. The Rebels acquired a total of 13 portal transfers that gave them the No. 1 transfer class according to 247Sports.
A player to keep your eyes on is sophomore transfer running back Zach Evans.
The former five-star prospect played his freshman year at Texas Christian University before making his decision to transfer to Ole Miss. Evans will help fill a hole in the Rebels running attack as they lost their main trio of running backs due to the NFL Draft and transfer portal: Jerrion Ealy, Snoop Conner and Henry Parrish Jr.
“It’s a big difference coming from the Big 12 to the SEC,” Evans told the media. “But I’m loving it.”
Another thing to keep your eye on is the quarterback battle between sophomores Luke Altmyer and Jaxson Dart. Altmyer was the backup quarterback to Matt Corral last year, so he knows the offensive system well. Dart is a transfer from the University of Southern California and the No. 2 ranked pocket passer coming out of high school. Although he has a ton of arm talent, his decision making has held him back.
Although Dart seems like the clear-cut player to win the starting quarterback job, the competition between the two is closer than people think.
“I think both guys have done good things, made big plays. We’ve got some good competition and doing some new things on offense with the guys,” head coach Lane Kiffin said. “Both guys really don’t have a ton of playing time. Jaxson’s had more but it wasn’t with us, so not a lot of carry over there.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Rebels lost some key starters from a year ago. Chance Campbell, Jake Springer, Jaylon Jones, Mark Robinson, Sam Williams Sr. and Tariqious Tisdale all declared for the NFL Draft.
The defensive position battles will be interesting to watch. At linebacker, TCU transfer Khari Coleman, Central Michigan transfer Troy Brown and Northeast Mississippi transfer Reginald Hughes have been taking reps at the position. Ashanti Cistrunk is the sole linebacker remaining that was on last season’s roster. He will be part of the mix as well.
At defensive back, the Rebels managed to acquire a few talented commits. Four and three-star cornerbacks Davison Igbinosun and Jarell Stinson will help fill the gaps at cornerback. Auburn transfer Ladarius Tennison and Iowa State transfer Isheem Young will keep the safety position secure.
Not only did Ole Miss gain a lot of new players, they also made some drastic moves with the coaching staff.
After offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby’s departure for Oklahoma and co-defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin left for Texas A&M, the Rebels knew that they needed to find worthy coaches to replace enormous losses.
Charlie Weis Jr. is the new offensive coordinator for the upcoming season. Weis was one of Kiffin’s assistants back at Florida Atlantic University, so the two have a strong connection.
Maurice Crum will take over as the new co-defensive coordinator for the Rebels. He will also serve as the linebackers coach. Crum served as the defensive coordinator for Western Kentucky for the past two seasons, where his defense held opponents to 21 points or less in seven of their last eight games in 2021.
It’s been a busy spring for Kiffin and the Rebels, but the excitement is in the air as we get closer to the football season.
The Grove Bowl will be played on Saturday, April 19 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Kickoff is set at 12 p.m. on SEC Network+.