Meet six standout players who are turning heads for Ole Miss football during spring practice
OXFORD — No football player ever has a bad spring. Not publicly, at least.
Spring football is about positivity. Everyone's in great shape. Everyone's getting better. Everyone's got great energy. Everyone's feeling more confident. Everyone's building toward a great fall season.
Lane Kiffin and his Ole Miss Rebels are three weeks into spring practices. Those are the refrains Kiffin and his players tend to favor in media sessions. No player gains anything from saying a teammate isn't playing well and Kiffin has made it his point to say the depth chart is written in sand. So when that's the case, the answer to the question "Who is standing out right now" usually tends to be "everybody."
Still, through the murky haze of positivity, a few true standouts have emerged. Here's a list of six players who teammates and Kiffin can't help but gush about this spring and what those head turners are doing to achieve such high praise.
The freshman four-star defensive back from Philadelphia has been the true breakthrough player. Kiffin and sixth-year senior Jaylon Jones have both said Johnson doesn't look like a freshman. Jones described Johnson as versatile and aggressive.
Johnson primarily worked with the second-string defense in last Saturday's open scrimmage but did rotate with the first team on multiple drives.
"He's stepped up a lot," junior defensive back Miles Battle said. "In the scrimmage he really impressed me. Just in his ability to read and cover and make plays."
A 6-foot, 205-pound transfer defensive back from Navy, Jake Springer sat out last season but is working with the first-team defense at safety and nickelback this spring. Springer told the media he's comfortable at those positions and thinks his versatility is a major asset, which is something Jones agreed with.
"He really could play everywhere," Jones said. "He's a guy that could play the run, could cover and be a ball hawk. He's definitely a vital piece in this defense. I look forward to playing with him this year."
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Isaiah Iton and Jamond Gordon
It's hard to separate the two junior college defensive line transfers from one another. Both missed time early in camp. But returned to make impressive sacks in two-minute drills in last Saturday's scrimmage. Both, according to Kiffin, are rotating between inside and outside positions.
"Obviously everybody was wondering about the new cats that came in," Springer said. "They've been getting after it. I think all of our defensive line really has a confidence. We've got them on the back end, and they can go do those things."
One last newcomer in the defensive backfield: Freshman Trey Washington. Jones praised Washington, as did junior safety A.J. Finley.
Of the eight defensive backs Ole Miss signed in the Class of 2021, Washington was the lowest rated by the 247Sports Composite rankings, so hearing his name mentioned above other early enrollees like Markevious Brown and Dink Jackson. who were four-star signees, is a testament to how quickly Washington is learning.
The story of the spring for Ole Miss' offense has been injuries, especially at the skill positions. With receivers like Braylon Sanders and Jonathan Mingo missing time this spring, the Rebels have had to turn to a number of reserve options, including speedy junior Dannis Jackson.
Jones said Jackson has stood out, especially with his speed. Jackson played primarily as an outside receiver with the first team in Saturday's scrimmage, lined up at the position along with senior Dontario Drummond and junior college transfer Qua Davis.
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.