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A recap of the last 21 days of Ole Miss football

It has been, to put it mildly, a bit of a whirlwind.

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Mississippi Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Three weeks ago Thursday, Ole Miss defeated Mississippi State 17-7 in the Egg Bowl, played in the style of Lane Kiffin trying to win 10-7.

The victory locked up Ole Miss’ second 10-win regular season ever (both occurred under Kiffin) and put them into position to earn a fourth New Year’s Six bowl bid, which would be third in the SEC and tied for eighth overall in college football.

Before that could come to pass, Ole Miss had to wait 10 days to see how the last regular season weekend and conference championship games played out, followed by the Playoff Committee’s suburban Dallas declarations. Since the waiting began, just a few things (a few) here and there have happened.

If you went into power save mode after the Egg Bowl or can’t keep it all organized in your head because...

  1. Old
  2. [gestures at all of us using just enough brain power to get to tomorrow]
  3. Your brain has important things to remember, like the pin number for the debit card the Guardians used in Man on Fire* being 4747

*Came out in 2004! I need a few minutes.

...this recap of the last 21 days should bring you up to speed, as we continue through Portal Szn, Recruiting Szn, and Waiting for the Peach Bowl Szn.

Wait, what happened between the Egg Bowl and Peach Bowl announcement?

See, so much stuff has happened, it’s easy to forget defensive lineman JJ Pegues announced he was returning for the 2024 season.

Kind of important to retain one of the best players on a defense that was looking at a major personnel overhaul if enough players didn’t return. Plus, Ole Miss doesn’t have to replace the fourth-and-short quarterback in the personnel package that will slowly drive everyone insane.

Did anything else happen before the Peach Bowl announcement?

No, that was the only significant news. On December 3rd, Ole Miss got invited to the Peach Bowl to play Penn State and earned the program’s fourth New Year’s Six bowl appearance, much to the dismay of the haters and losers, of which there are many.

However, the next day, we started the near-vertical climb of Ole Miss developments.

So what happened on December 4th?

Wide receiver Dayton Wade announced he would not be in Oxford in 2024 but hopefully on an NFL sideline. While exciting for Wade, it was a general downer until later that day when receiver Deion Smith, the top JUCO prospect in the country, committed to Ole Miss.

If you recall, Smith initially went to LSU before getting out of Baton Rouge and finally landing in Oxford, as he was predicted to do so since what feels like 2007.

Ok, what about all the portal commitments and returning players? Weren’t those happening like every day?

Almost! Let’s break it down day by day.

Oh, and while all of this was going on, Ole Miss hosted various targets in the transfer portal and visited recruits.

December 5th

  • Boring

December 6th

  • Boring, but transfer portal chatter growing louder

December 7th

  • Transfer portal chatter INTENSIFYING
  • Also:

December 8th

*When I heard his name, I googled whether he was Chris Paul’s (Golden State Warriors) son. I’m not sure I could’ve survived the search without turning into dust if that had been the case.

December 9th

  • Illinois cornerback Tahveon Nicholson chooses Ole Miss as his next stop
  • Wide receiver Jordan Watkins says he’s returning for 2024

December 10th

December 11th

December 12th

December 13th

  • WEDNESDAYS ARE TRASH

December 14th

  • Oklahoma safety Key Lawrence announces he’s heading to Oxford
  • Mind you, that is former top 100 recruit Key Lawrence
  • Transfer portal visits are scheduled, while chatter and rumors are afoot

Ok, yeah, that was a lot. Given this is Ole Miss, what’s the bad news?

TOUGH BUT FAIR.

I wouldn’t call any of what follows as bad news, but news that doesn’t align with a perfect scenario going into 2024.

  • Defensive lineman Cedric Johnson accepted a Senior Bowl invitation, which means he is almost certainly not coming back
  • Fellow defenders John Saunders, Khari Coleman, and Joshua Harris have not yet made a decision on where they will be in 2024
  • Running back Ulysses Bentley IV is also undecided
  • Offensive linemen Caleb Warren, Jeremy James, and Reece McIntyre could all return, but they have not made any announcements

Of those undecided players, it would be a real good time if Coleman, Bentley, and James were in Oxford next season.

Hey, not that bad! But is there potentially anything not great lurking out there?

Well, starting quarterback Jaxson Dart has not officially decided whether he’ll be a two-year or three-year starter at Ole Miss. He was asked if he would be back next season, and he side-stepped the question, saying he was focused on the bowl game right now.

Now, common sense tells you Tre Harris, Jordan Watkins, and Caden Prieskorn are not coming back unless they know Dart’s status.* BUT, since this is Ole Miss football, certainties are never certain, so I’m going to need an official announcement before I tell the sliver of my brain with concern to calm down.

*Not to mention portal players signing on for what should be a run at the college football playoff.

The ol’ intuition tells me this is an effort to build drama prior to an elaborate announcement (A TRUE SHOWMAN), but again, let us embrace the emotional hedge.

So, uh, what about a hypothetical where Dart doesn’t come back?

If it were to happen, Kiffin and company would have to decide if they feel good enough about Walker Howard as a first-year starter with a roster around him that’s good enough to get into the playoff. If they don’t, they’re getting into the quarterback portal game (although pretty late) and probably would have to spend an irresponsible amount of money.

Let me once again reiterate this scenario is extremely unlikely, but who among us does not enjoy introducing your brain to an idea it will not like.

Is that everything?

Speaking of hypotheticals that are unpleasant, let me throw this out there. The Raiders just beat the Chargers 63-21, meaning Brandon Staley is toast (maybe by the time you read this).

[clears throat]

[taps mic]

Los Angeles Chargers head coach Lane Kiffin.

[sprints from stage]

How dare you.

Look, I’m trying to delete it.

Ok, for real, are we done here with relevant information?

Yes, that’s it for portal/recruiting/returning player news. I’m sure Friday and this weekend will bring additional developments. Hopefully on the defensive side, where we cannot add enough talent for my liking.

Before we go though, Ole Miss’ 2024 schedule became officially official.

Does Ole Miss open SEC play with three straight games in Tuscaloosa?

I’m detecting some bitterness there, but no, it’s about as friendly of a schedule as we could’ve imagined.

SEC home games:

  • Kentucky
  • Oklahoma
  • Georgia
  • Mississippi State

SEC away games:

  • South Carolina
  • LSU
  • Arkansas
  • Florida

Ole Miss will likely be favored in every game but Georgia and LSU (depending on LSU’s quarterback situation), but they will have to win in Fayetteville (a graveyard for Ole Miss), as well as in Gainesville and Columbia, two places where it didn’t go well the last time a good Ole Miss team visited.

Not that those games still haunt my memories.