Ole Miss football sitting at 1-4 after five games was in no way what was expected this season by many Rebel fans who were excited and eager to see the arrival of head coach Lane Kiffin.
Now where Ole Miss is currently isn’t completely at the feet of Kiffin. There has been no spring football, a global pandemic, recruiting world turned on its head - clearly there are more than enough challenges there. But also, every other school is having to deal with it as well and its not unique to Ole Miss.
Kiffin and Co. are having to play the hand they were dealt, and they seemingly are revamping the offense and defense in the midst of a 10-game all Southeastern Conference season. Oh, and by the way, they also haven’t quite figured out if the go to quarterback is Matt Corral or John Rhys Plumlee just yet.
Yes, there were recruiting misses over the last few seasons prior to Kiffin’s arrival, but the offensive mastermind could surely weave the team through the season and find four or five wins, right? At least, this is generally what the staff at Red Cup surmised prior to kick-off of the season. Hell, after the Bama game, we felt more than confident about a 4-6 or 5-5 season to begin the climb back to SEC relevancy.
Yes, the high scoring, high flying Bama game seems like ages ago now. This team had one of the best programs in the country on its heels and let them off the hook late in the game. Surely it should have served as a big confidence booster for a relatively young squad.
But something has not quite clicked just yet with the program though it is still very early in Kiffin’s tenure. The lone win came at the miscue of a Kentucky kicker in overtime, and without it, things may really be looking dire in Oxford. So this team is learning how to win and finish drives this season, for sure, but the damning part of it is that they aren’t that much closer to delivering on that just yet.
Back-to-back losses to Arkansas and Auburn showed more deficiencies in execution and play-calling than in the previous three weeks. Turnovers have reared its ugly head at inopportune times, and the coaches can’t be blamed too much for dropped passes. Time management and play-calling, however, rests on the staff, and it has been overly gimmicky or cute at times when opportunities have landed in the Rebels’ lap.
The fake field goal attempt against Auburn that went awry will surely be in the minds of Rebel fans for awhile as will the multiple red zone turnovers inside the five yard line against the Tigers and the Hogs. It’s still the first year, so there are expected growing pains.
But eventually, the team has got to break through or face a potential disappointing season in terms of final record. For the most part, the Red Cup staff is extremely optimistic about the road forward — our post-game straw poll still had most of us feeling a 3-2 down the stretch run is possible and any of the remaining games can’t be written off as losses just yet. Kiffin has fans believing again, and the team has gelled somewhat in the first half of the year.
So now onto the mid-season report card where I asked every staff member and friend of the Cup to give a snapshot overall grade on performance for the first five games.
Lane Kiffin mid-season report card
One Man to Beat: C+
Zach Berry: C+
Ruby Draayer: B+
Grayson Weir: B
Gray Hardison: B+
Two Yards: B
Juco All American: B-
Nick Carr: C+
Overall average: B-
This snapshot is only the thoughts of eight people who follow Ole Miss football closely, and it’s clear the swag of Kiffin has expectations high. He’s even met or exceeded the expectations at times through the first five games, but how this staff responds to the 1-4 start and adjusts for the final five games of the 2020 season will tell the Ole Miss faithful a lot about the kind of coaches the program has moving forward.
So what grade would you give Kiffin this season so far? Comment below or hit us up on Twitter @redcuprebellion.