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Rebel Yells: An Ole Miss Football Preview


Fans in the Grove shouted rebel yells and cheered for more in 2022. The Ole Miss Rebels return 16 starters from last year’s 8-5 squad as the Lane Train returns to Oxford with a talented roster and high expectations in 2023.


Fourth-year head coach Lane Kiffin returns weapons on offense and then added some more weapons from the transfer portal.

 

Ole Miss Rebels Offense-Quarterbacks

The QB1 “battle” is raging as incumbent starter Jaxson Dart and Oklahoma State transfer Spencer Sanders continue to face off to see who gets the nod as the starting quarterback this season.


Dart passed for 2974 yards, 20 TDs, and 11 INTs, and completed 62% of his passes. In addition, he added 614 rushing yards. Dart rushed for over 100 yards twice last season: 116 yards vs Tulsa and 115 yards vs Auburn.

He completed 78% of his passes, throwing for 448 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-28 win over Vanderbilt. In the Texas Bowl vs Texas Tech, Dart passed for 361 yards and two touchdowns, but he threw three INTs in a loss.


Dart led an offense that was 3rd in the SEC total offense at 496 yards per game, and 1st in the SEC in rushing offense at 256 yards per game (3rd in the FBS).


Sanders was a four-year starter at Oklahoma State, where he passed for over 9,000 career yards, 67 touchdowns, and 40 INTs. In addition, he added 1956 rushing yards and another 18 scores on the ground. In 2022 for the Cowboys, Sanders passed for 2642 yards, 17 TDs, and nine INTs. He completed 57% of his passes. In addition, he rushed for 381 yards and eight touchdowns.


Walker Howard, a transfer from LSU, is also in that quarterback room.


Whoever starts at quarterback will be protected by an offensive line that returns four of the five starters and allowed just 16 sacks over 13 games in 2022. That was good enough for 3rd in the SEC and 23rd in the country. However, C Caleb Warren is nursing an injury and is on the No Contact List in practice.

 

Rebels with a Cause for Excitement-The Ole Miss Running Backs

As Quinshon Judkins goes, so goes the Ole Miss rushing attack. Judkins set single-season school records for rushing yards (1565) and rushing touchdowns (16) in 2022, the second-most rushing yards ever by a freshman in SEC, behind only the great Herschel Walker.


He rushed for 100 yards eight times last season, including 205 yards and a touchdown in a 31-28 win over Texas A&M. Judkins broke 200 yards again when he gained 214 yards in a 42-27 loss to Arkansas and recorded six games with multiple rushing touchdowns.

For his efforts, Judkins was named SEC Freshman of the Year, 1st Team All-SEC, and Freshman All-American.


This preseason, Judkins has been named Preseason All-American and Preseason All-SEC. In addition, he has been named to the following watchlists for 2023:

· Maxwell Award

· Walter Camp Player of the Year

· Doak Walker


Also in the running back corps is Ulysses Bentley (4 TDs in six games), Kedrick Reescano, and Matt Jones (played in 4 games, scored 1 touchdown). Jones has been banged up in fall camp and is on the “No Contact” list.

 

The Good Hands Crew - The Ole Miss Receivers

The wide receiver room is full of talent, led by the following:

· Jordan Watkins: 40 catches, 449 yards, and two touchdowns.

· Zakhari Franklin (UTSA transfer): 94 catches, 1136 yards, and 15 TDs for the Roadrunners. He posted three games with 10 catches and over 100 yards receiving. Franklin scored multiple receiving touchdowns in four games, including three TDs in a 48-27 win over North Texas.

· Tre Harris (La. Tech transfer): 65 catches, 935 yards, 10 TDs for the Bulldogs. He scored three receiving touchdowns in a 42-41 loss to Rice.

· Ayden Williams (Fr.): 4-star recruit and #2 player in Mississippi. Played at Ridgeland High School. Williams caught 69 passes, 1256 yards, and 15 TDs.

 

Defenders of the Vaught-The Rebels Defense

Pete Golding is the new defensive coordinator, fresh off the bus from Tuscaloosa where he coached a Top 20 defense for the Crimson Tide. The Rebels return seven starters from a unit that was 3rd in the SEC in sacks with 35, but only produced eight INTs on the season. The defense will be led by:


· DE Cedric Johnson: 32 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, and a blocked kick.

· DT J.J. Pegues: 26 tackles, five tackles for loss, three sacks.

· LB Monty Montgomery (Louisville transfer): 70 tackles, two INTs, 11 tackles for loss, six sacks, four forced fumbles.

· CB Zamari Walton (Georgia Tech transfer): 37 tackles, six pass breakups, one INT.

· CB Deantre Prince: 39 tackles, one INT, one tackle for loss, 11 tackles for loss.

· SS Isheem Young: 66 tackles, one INT, 1.5 tackles for loss.

· FS LaDarius Tennison: 54 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, one sack, two fumble returns (one for a TD).

 

The Schedule and Prediction

The Rebels have the 12th toughest schedule in the country, according to Phil Steele. But with their weapons on offense, Ole Miss can go 9-3 and be the #3 third-best team in the SEC West. Their losses will be at Alabama, LSU, at Georgia.

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