4 reasons to be excited for the start of Ole Miss spring football practice next week
OXFORD — The journey to the most anticipated Ole Miss football season in six years begins within the week.
Ole Miss kicks off its 2021 spring football session on Tuesday. Heading into Year 2 under Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss is a trendy pick to be a breakout team. ESPN, The Sporting News, Stadium and The Athletic all put Ole Miss on their too-early Top 25 rankings for 2021 and Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral is listed as a top 20 Heisman Trophy contender in at least five prominent sportsbooks.
Building hype is what spring practices are all about. So here are four reasons to be excited about Ole Miss football this spring.
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1. Ole Miss leads SEC West in COVID seniors ...
Ole Miss has 35 seniors on the roster. Thirteen were seniors last season but opted to return for an extra season as allowed by the NCAA after the COVID-19 pandemic. Eight of those 13 were starters last season.
No SEC West team returns more COVID seniors or brings back more returning starters among COVID seniors than Ole Miss. Throw in traditional seniors like Ben Brown, Jacquez Jones, MoMo Sanogo and Keidron Smith, who have three years of starting experience as well, and this team is loaded with veterans.
2. But some youngsters will play early
Ole Miss will have 14 early enrollees participating in spring practices. Among the group will be four-star quarterback Luke Altmyer, four-star tight end Hudson Wolfe, four-star defensive backs Tysheem Johnson, Dink Jackson and Markevious Brown and the top two junior college defensive tackles in the country Isaiah Iton and Jamond Gordon.
Even with the number of veterans Ole Miss has, expect those players and more to compete for backup and rotational jobs, if not outright starting positions, from day one.
3. The wide receiver competition
The biggest question for Ole Miss' offense will be how it replaces All-America wide receiver Elijah Moore's production. This spring, Ole Miss will have as many as 13 wide receivers competing. This group includes COVID seniors and returning starters Dontario Drummond and Braylon Sanders as well as juniors Jonathan Mingo and Dannis Jackson.
Ole Miss will also have freshman Brandon Buckhaulter, junior college signee Qua Davis and Western Kentucky transfer Jahcour Pearson in the mix.
No one expects any of these players to average more than 10 catches per game or have three 200-yard games like Moore did a year ago. But at one of the game's most exciting positions, Ole Miss figures to have an exciting position battle.
4. Matt Corral, duh
Corral led the nation in total offense per game last season and accounted for 33 touchdowns in 10 games without the benefit of spring practices. Year 1 under Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby turned Corral into the player who will likely be picked as a first-team All-SEC quarterback in the preseason.
Now he has two months with Kiffin and Lebby to hone his craft further. Corral made a huge jump from rotational backup to top-flight SEC starter last offseason. This spring, he'll need to make a similar jump if Ole Miss wants to fulfill its expectations and contend in the SEC.
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or email@example.com. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.