With three football games behind us, we’ve now had a pretty decent look at the revamped Ole Miss roster.
So far, the Lane Kiffin/Ole Miss Football Transfer Portal Experience looks like a resounding success, with fifteen transfers having seen significant playing time so far.
We’ve also taken a dive into the Rebels’ roster situation in recent weeks as it pertains to high school recruiting (part 1, part 2). Now, let’s take an early look at the Rebels’ most urgent offseason needs; the positions most likely to require an infusion of talent from the portal.
One of the bigger question marks for Lane Kiffin’s year three squad, the wide receiver crew seems much improved, despite some notable misses on the portal recruiting trail (Quick note on two of those misses: former LSU wideout Deion Smith is just… out in the world somewhere, after transferring to East Mississippi CC, then dropping out. Wyoming transfer Isaiah Neyor ended up at Texas, where he sadly suffered a season-ending ACL tear). Malik Heath has been the major surprise among the new wide receivers, essentially emerging as the co-number 1 wideout opposite Jonathan Mingo. Dayton Wade and Jordan Watkins have also contributed, with highly-touted UCF transfer Jaylon Robinson seemingly struggling with a minor injury (we still expect him to become a major contributor when healthy). Redshirt freshman JJ Henry and Juco transfer Qua Davis are the only other Ole Miss receivers to appear on the stat sheet so far. Of those seven receivers, Mingo, Heath, Robinson, and Davis are all seniors, while Wade and Watkins are juniors. Expect Lane Kiffin to grab at least two ready-to-go portal receivers over the offseason.
So obviously the Ole Miss running back room is pretty damn good. But Zach Evans is pretty unlikely to stick around for another year, and Kentrell Bullock seems to be sitting the season out with an eye on the transfer portal. That would leave two scholarship backs in Quinshon Judkins and Ulysses Bentley IV. As JUCO All-American and I discussed in our most recent podcast… the big boys are going to come after Judkins, tampering rules be damned. No way to know if he’ll listen or not, but Kiffin and co. would be foolish to wait and find out. Adding two backs, one from the portal and one from the high school ranks, seems like a wise move.
Another pleasant surprise so far this season has been the solid play at linebacker. Central Michigan transfer Troy Brown is tied for the team lead in tackles, TCU transfer Khari Coleman leads the team in sacks, and returners Austin Keys and Ashanti Cistrunk are playing lots of minutes and playing better than anticipated. Freshman linebacker Trip White also has seven tackles on the season, while fellow freshman Tyler Banks and JUCO signee Reginald Hughes have also seen some late-game snaps. However, Brown and Cistrunk are seniors, Coleman is a junior, and there is definitely still room for star power at the linebacker position. Some of that star power is likely on the way in the form of Raleigh, MS top-100 recruit Suntarine Perkins, but linebacker isn’t the easier position for a true freshman to stand out.
Like the running back position, Ole Miss is super solid at corner, with two veterans in Miles Battle and Deantre Prince, and a freshman phenom in Davison Igbinosun. Redshirt freshman Markevious Brown has also contributed heavily, tying Igbinosun with nine tackles through three games. But with Battle and Prince both presumably gone to the NFL next year, bringing in a seasoned starter from the portal to push Igbinosun, Brown, and the rest of the young corners seems like a smart move.
Tavius Robinson is a senior, and junior Cedrick Johnson could well be NFL-bound after this season. Contributors Demon Clowney and Jared Ivey return, as does JJ Hawkins, but we haven’t seen anything from Brandon Mack or Jak Brown yet this year (one or both may be injured). Also, as a general rule, if you can land a talented pass rusher, you take him.
Next week, we’ll talk official visitors for the Rebels’ likely top-15 matchup with Kentucky; at least two blue-chip prospects are expected to be in town, with more sure to be added.