“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”
― Beryl Markham
This team has made it through the non-conference schedule unscathed, thanks in no small part to transfers who have stepped into starting roles. It’s tough to name ten players who were on the roster a season ago who are making a significant impact on this team, and that’s a testament to Kiffin and company’s ability to identify weaknesses and remedy them through whatever means necessary.
Four of the team’s top five rushers and four of its top five receivers are transfers. Its quarterback is a transfer. Three of its top five tacklers. Just about the only unit that hasn’t seen an impact transfer is the offensive line, which probably could have used one or two good newcomers as well.
There are some players who have risen to the top of the heap though.
Jaxson Dart seized the starting quarterback job and has played well
Don’t get me wrong: Jaxson Dart hasn’t it up any stat sheets, even against the weakest competition he’ll face all season. Still, he has played well in the early season, an while we can expect a couple of breakdown games from him, I also expect a game or two when things really click later this year.
Also, while I knew he wasn’t a statue, I’ve been surprised at how often he’s intentionally used in the running game. If he can keep producing there, it will help this offense a lot when the offensive line (bleh) keeps giving up pressure or receivers can’t separate.
Zach Evans missed the second half of Tulsa with an injury but has looked good early
While the story of the backfield has been, rightfully, the emergence of Quinshon Judkins, Evans has shown every bit of why he was so highly regarded out of TCU. He’s averaging 6.2 yards per carry and at times looks effortless. While I think Judkins is a really good back, I hope Evans gets back on the field ASAP.
Wide receiver Malik Heath has been a real asset
While I’m still not a huge fan of taking the transfer due to the on-the-field face kicking against Tulsa in Mississippi State’s 2020 bowl game, I’ll admit that he has helped this team. Heath is the team’s second leading receiver and a consistent threat in important situations. It’s tough to imagine what this passing game would look like without him because...
The rest of the receivers have done nothing
Ole Miss added Jaylon Robinson, Jalen Knox, and Jordan Watkins through the portal. Those players have combined for nine catches through four games. It’s not like the receiver room is deep: quite the contrary. This team is ripe for someone to step up and make some plays. It’s just not happening.
The defense is getting huge contributions from the portal
LB Troy Brown (leading tackler), S Otis Reese (4th), and S Ladarius Tennison (5th) are in on nearly every play for a defense that, outside of the Tulsa game, has looked excellent. Couple that with DT JJ Pegues disrupting plays up the middle, and it’s easy to see how this is working.
While the defense could benefit from more big plays, transfers all over the field are making a difference.