Headed into the season, it was obvious that the transfer portal would primarily determine whether this team would be any good. Could Lane Kiffin manage all those pieces and ultimately deal with the dissatisfaction of transfers who ultimately didn’t win jobs they transferred to win? Could his staff cobble together players from many different systems and produce immediately? Was Jaxson Dart even going to win the starting job?
Yes. Yeah, I guess maybe the coaches Ole Miss pays many millions of dollars to know a thing or two about what they’re doing.
It has been an undeniable, smashing success. Obviously, it would have been more ideal to have all these players on campus years ago, but Kiffin and company found them when they were primed to contribute. Quinshon Judkins, a distinctly non-transfer freshman, may distract from the fact that transfers are fueling this noteworthy follow-up to last year’s remarkable run.
Beating Alabama will be a tough task, but here are three players who will need to be especially great for the Rebels to stand a chance.
Jaxson Dart | Quarterback
Yeah. Shocker: the quarterback needs to be good for the Rebels to win. I know it’s earth-shattering stuff.
I will say, Dart doesn’t have to throw for a lot of yards to be effective in this one. He’s more likely to make noise on the ground, where Alabama struggles. Jayden Daniels only finished LSU’s victory over the Crimson Tide with 182 yards through the air. He did his damage on the ground with 18 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown.
That’s not to say Dart can struggle passing and still escape with a win. He needs to be efficient and mistake-free, but he doesn’t have to be prolific.
GET OUT OF JAXSON DART’S WAY OR GET RUN OVER. CHOO CHOOOO! pic.twitter.com/VYpB52MHur— Grayson Weir (@GsonJW) September 17, 2022
Troy Brown | Linebacker
Brown is still the Rebels’ leading tackler despite playing limited snaps several weeks in a row. When he’s at his best, he’s a sideline to sideline tackle machine. He hasn’t made a lot of flashy plays this season, but having a reliable player at linebacker who you can count on to eat up tackles is a huge asset when you’re trying to stop Jahmyr Gibbs. Gibbs is incredibly fast and makes his money on outside runs. Brown is the linebacker most capable of stopping those.
This is a great get for #OleMiss! Former #CMU LB Troy Brown has some tremendous range, especially coverage snaps and he makes plays all over the field. Love this fit for him.— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) January 13, 2022
Jonathan Cruz | Kicker
Call it a hunch. I think the Rebels will ultimately have to kick field goals a bit more than usual. Cruz has been incredible all season. That can’t end in the second-biggest game of the year.