Ole Miss football at SEC Media Days
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WLBT) - Lane Kiffin and the Ole Miss football players took the stage for the final day of the SEC Media Days Thursday. Kiffin was joined in Nashville by senior corner back Deantre Prince, junior defensive lineman Cedric Johnson, and sophomore running back Quinshon Judkins.
Kiffin, who is entering his fourth season as head coach of the Rebels, focused a lot on the current state of the transfer portal, including Name Image Likeness, even comparing it to free agency in professional leagues.
“It’s not ideal to have 40 scholarships of your 80 guys be brand new, but it is what it is. It was a challenge last year, one that I don’t think I handled well at the end,” he said.
Kiffin was referencing the way the season ended for the Rebels. After a loss late in the game to Alabama, Ole Miss lost its next three games of the season.
“When you have so many new guys, if things don’t go the way you want to go, keeping them together [is difficult], because you don’t have years of them being together,” he said.
“Me personally, I think we let one game lose the rest of the games for us,” Prince said. “I feel like we gave up from that one game for the rest of the season, which is something we worked on from January to now to make sure it never happens again.”
With so much turnover across college football, teams need leaders in the locker room more than ever. Having strong team chemistry something the veterans in the Rebel locker room emphasize.
“That’s a huge factor, we have to just let them in... this is a brotherhood, man,” Prince said. “We’ve gotta let them in, find activities to do on the weekends, just make sure that y’all stay close knit no matter where they’re from. Everybody’s from different backgrounds, it’s a team thing.”
Kiffin did say that the transfer portal makes it easier to fill needs on the team.
“The great thing about it is coaches can fill needs quicker than before. It took you longer to fill those spots, because basically you’d have to fill them through high school kids or junior college”
In fact, Ole Miss may have the deepest quarterback room in college football, adding Spencer Sanders from Oklahoma State and Walker Howard from LSU in the off-season to go along with returning starter Jaxson Dart. Kiffin isn’t ready to name a starter just yet, but said he is impressed with how Dart has handled the situation.
“I think Jaxson’s done an amazing job, he had a great spring, from a play standpoint, from a leadership standpoint, from improvement throwing the ball better than he ever has. So, I think he’s gonna have a great camp,” he said.
Regardless of who is under center, it’s clear Judkins will be with them in the backfield. The sophomore was the youngest player at SEC Media Days for any team, and as a freshman had 1,567 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns, both single-season records at Ole Miss.
Despite the accomplishments from Judkins’ first year, and the hype surrounding him this off-season, all he’s focusing on for this season is improving his game.
“As a freshman, you’re out there, there’s things you don’t really know, or that you could better your game at,” he said. “So, in year two, putting those things together with pass protection, running routes, not just out the backfield, really anywhere on the field, and just producing.”
The Rebels open their season on September 2, hosting Mercer.
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