With the 2021 season in the rearview, the theme for Ole Miss’ offseason so far has been a scramble to rebuild via the transfer portal.
After the defense was transformed with the additions of Chance Campbell, Jake Springer, and Otis Reese, and an already-explosive offense added valuable contributors Jahcour Pearson and Jordan Rhodes, Rebel fans got an initial taste of how a team like Ole Miss can build and rebuild through the portal.
So while it’s easy to focus the lion’s share of attention on adding players who have already made an impact on the college level, there are still several highly sought-after players on the Ole Miss roster who have been waiting in the wings behind more veteran teammates.
Here are some of the guys who could be primed for a 2022 breakout season:
EDITOR’S NOTE: post written prior to Saturday’s Sugar Bowl
Luke Altmyer, quarterback (rising sophomore)
With each passing day that Ole Miss goes without signing a highly-regarding transfer QB, Starkville’s Luke Altmyer gets one day closer to leading the Rebels’ offense in 2022. Ranked as the No. 193 player in the 2021 signing class, Altmyer immediately positioned himself as the primary backup to Matt Corral, beating out 2019 signee Kinkead Dent and Western Kentucky transfer Tyrell Pigrome.
Altmyer threw nine total passes in three games in 2021, notably going 5-for-5 in a hostile Jordan-Hare Stadium while trainers did a Google Image search for “normal human ankle” in an effort to get Matt Corral back on the field. It’s extremely unlikely Altmyer will seamlessly replace Corral, but my best guess is he could resemble the version of Corral that first suited up as a starter for the Rebs in 2019 (with the added bonus of not being coached by Matt Luke).
Qua Davis, wide receiver (rising senior)
A 2021 signee from Itawamba CC, Davis was presumably brought in to add immediate depth to a receiver room looking to add production outside of starters Dontario Drummond, Braylon Sanders, and Jonathan Mingo. However, even as two of the three aforementioned playmakers missed significant time with injuries, Davis recorded straight bagels on the stat sheet and did not log a catch on the season. Davis was ranked by 247Sports as the No. 2 JUCO receiver and No. 18 JUCO player overall, and his highlight tape suggests he is a dynamic runner after the catch with both power and elusiveness.
So it’s unclear if Davis’ lack of contribution in 2021 can be attributed to issues with the playbook, some nagging injury, or if he fell out of favor with coaches. Bringing in JUCO players who don’t sniff the field is a big evaluation cock-up that hopefully Davis and the Ole Miss staff can make up for with a breakout 2022.
Bralon Brown, wide receiver (rising redshirt freshman)
Rated the No. 178 player in the 2021 class according to the 247Sports composite, the 6-foot-2 Brown headlined a group of receivers looking to break into the rotation behind Drummond, Sanders, and Mingo. Early camp reports seemed to indicate Brown was in line to contribute early, but a nagging leg injury appeared to kill his momentum.
Marc Britt, wide receiver (rising redshirt sophomore)
Britt was a late add to the 2020 class, a four-star prospect from Miami. Rated the No. 269 player in his class, Britt played in four games his true freshman year, primarily on special teams, but was ultimately redshirted.
Classified as an “athlete” in his recruiting profile, Britt started out in the Ole Miss wide receiver room, but with a run of COVID cases that hit the team in September, Britt was briefly penciled in as a starting safety. Once again listed as a receiver heading into the 2021 season, Britt mysteriously failed to crack the rotation.
Hudson Wolfe, tight end (rising redshirt freshman)
Wolfe was rated as the No. 221 player in the 2021 signing class, and the 8th-ranked tight end. Three years into the Kiffin era, he remains the only highly-regarded tight end prospect to join the team, aside from grad transfer Kenny Yeboah. Wolfe missed his senior year of high school due to a back injury that has also caused the Ole Miss training staff to limit his participation somewhat during his freshman year.
Wolfe has a huge frame, and in his highlights, appears to be an athletic receiver despite lacking top-end speed. Ole Miss returns walk-on starter Casey Kelly, and could also return Chase Rogers, should he elect to claim his extra year of eligibility granted due to the 2020 COVID season. Kelly and Rogers have both exceeded expectations, but Ole Miss definitely lacks a true receiving threat at the position.
Tywone Malone, defensive line (rising redshirt freshman)
Far and away the highest-rated player signed throughout Kiffin’s three classes, Malone came from Bergen Catholic as the No. 63 player in the 2021 class. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds, Malone looks to be the future star of the Ole Miss defensive line.
This dude's gonna be a problem...— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) September 12, 2021
https://t.co/fQPp7rmUkp@TywoneMalone | #HottyToddy pic.twitter.com/TyrGjf0L3s
The Rebel defense returns most of its defensive line rotation from 2021, but Malone should have the athleticism to become a major defensive playmaker in 2022 and beyond. We’re also absolutely begging Mike Bianco to let Tywone loose at the plate for the Ole Miss baseball team.
Jakivuan Brown, Buck/outside linebacker (rising junior)
One of the highest-ranked defenders Ole Miss has signed from within the state of Mississippi in recent years, Brown was ranked the No. 303 player in the 2020 signing class. After playing in five games on special teams as a true freshman in 2020, Brown hasn’t been spotted in the defensive rotation in 2021.
Listed as a 6-foot-2, 250 pound outside linebacker on the Ole Miss roster, Jak would have been behind Sam Williams, Cedric Johnson, and Tavius Robinson in the rotation at the “Buck” position, typically played by a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker.
Demon Clowney, Buck/outside linebacker (rising redshirt sophomore)
No doubt the best edge rusher in college football whose name can be used as an adjective to describe horror movies (“I wanted to like ‘IT,’ but found it to be a little too Demon Clowney”), the Baltimore, Md. prospect came to Ole Miss as the No. 224 player in the 2020 class. Clowney came in a bit undersized, but is now listed at 6-foot-3, 255 pounds.
After seeing action in two games in 2020, Clowney continued to serve as a reserve behind the talented trio of Sam Williams, Cedric Johnson, and Tavius Robinson.
Brandon Mack, Buck/outside linebacker (rising junior)
Of all the players on this list, Mack was rated the lowest as a prospect, but he’s been often talked about as a guy with great potential who is poised to break out. During fall camp in 2020, Mack was penciled in as a starter as Sam Williams dealt with legal troubles (of which he was eventually cleared), and was often mentioned by coaches as a potential star in DJ Durkin’s defense.
Brandon Mack with his first start and already getting into the backfield. @TheRebelWalk #OleMiss pic.twitter.com/7Lm6gP0hvC— T.J. (@TJOxley1) November 15, 2020
The 6-foot-3, 245 pound Mack saw limited action in 2020, recording six tackles and two TFLs on the season. He drew a start against South Carolina, and appeared in five total games during 2020’s shortened, SEC-only schedule. During the 2021 offseason, Mack was again mentioned as a player primed to take a big step forward, but suffered a Lisfranc injury in July that required season-ending surgery.
MJ Daniels, defensive back (rising redshirt freshman)
Daniels was another highly-rated in-state defender, ranked as the No. 381 player in the 2021 signing class. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, Daniels appears to have the size to play either safety or one of the “Star” hybrid positions in the Ole Miss 3-2-6 defense. Ole Miss will be looking to find a replacement for Jake Springer at Star, and also will be looking for depth at the safety positions.
Daniels played all over the field in high school, with experience at corner, safety, wide receiver, and quarterback, so his versatility may be an asset that helps him see the field in 2022.
Other players who could potentially see bigger roles in 2022 include:
JJ Henry, wide receiver (rising redshirt freshman)
Kentrell Bullock, running back (rising junior)
Eli Acker, offensive guard (rising redshirt sophomore)
Markevious Brown, defensive back (rising redshirt freshman)