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Rebels Look To Replace Talented Losses At Wide Receiver, Defensive Line.

Lane Kiffin has his eyes set on a star transfer from Michigan State

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Michigan State at Penn State Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Lane Kiffin hopes to replace Chris Marshall with Michigan State star Keon Coleman

Former 5-star wide receiver Chris Marshall became the latest Ole Miss football player to leave the program late last week. Marshall had a solid Spring camp, emerging as a potential star and drawing rave reviews from all three Ole Miss scholarship quarterbacks, but in the background, there were murmurs of disciplinary issues. Those issues apparently came to a head, leading Lane Kiffin to release a statement Saturday announcing Marshall’s split from the program.

Fellow wide receiver transfer Tre Harris was sidelined for the entire spring period with an injury, so Ole Miss doesn’t really know what they have in the Louisiana Tech acquisition. And aside from Marshall and Harris, the Rebs were already lacking in outside receivers; Jalen Knox and Jordan Watkins may both play out wide, but both are a bit undersized, while Dayton Wade, JJ Henry, and Bralon Brown are all likely to play in the slot. Ole Miss gained a commitment from 6’4 Jackson State wide receiver Shane Hooks, but Hooks backed off his pledge just a few days later, apparently in search of a bigger NIL deal.

Enter Michigan State wide receiver Keon Coleman. A 6’4 Louisiana native, Coleman was the Spartans’ leading receiver for 2022, and was heavily recruited by Ole Miss out of high school. Coleman waited until very late in the transfer portal window to submit his name, which might have worked out perfectly for Ole Miss timing-wise. Had Coleman entered a few days earlier, Lane Kiffin and co. might not have reached out, as they appeared to be set at the receiver position. But with the loss of two big-bodied wideouts, expect the Rebs to put an absolute full court press on Coleman.

Coleman starts an official visit to Oxford today, and the buzz so far is very optimistic that he’ll end up committing to play for Ole Miss in 2023. Florida State is the other major competitor for Coleman’s services; he already visited Tallahassee and left without a commitment. Coleman will be a true junior, and could conceivably be a one-and-done player for whoever lands him.

Rebels look to replace JJ Hawkins, Tywone Malone

Defensive end JJ Hawkins has committed to the University of Colorado. As the Buffs’ 483rd transfer portal commit, Hawkins will definitely see lots of playing time, and also will definitely receive all the NIL funds he was promised by the boosters of the 12th best program in the Pac 12.

All sour grapes aside, Hawkins was slated to play a decent-sized role for the Ole Miss defense this year after serving mop-up duty in 2022. He appears to have a strong motor and good size for setting the edge. The most likely replacement for Hawkins appears to be James Madison grad transfer Isaac Ukwu, a 6’3, 260 lb pass rusher who is currently the top-ranked uncommitted EDGE player in the portal, and the #11 EDGE transfer overall, according to On3. Ukwu had 7.5 sacks in 2022 and 9 in 2021; he was a first-team all-Sun Belt player, and was an honorable mention on College Football Network’s All-American team. The James Madison standout visited Ole Miss last weekend, and previously visited Auburn.

Facing the probable loss of defensive tackle Tywone Malone (Malone has entered the portal, but has not committed elsewhere yet), Ole Miss also hosted Nebraska defensive tackle Stephon Wynn and Georgia Tech defensive end Akelo Stone over the weekend. Wynn started his career as a top-100 recruit who signed with Alabama in the class of 2018, and was heavily involved in the Huskers’ DL rotation last year; he’s listed at 6’3, 305 lbs. Stone will be a redshirt sophomore, and was expected to start or heavily contribute for GT this Fall. He’s listed at 6’2, 280 lbs.