3 position groups Ole Miss football should add players in transfer portal this offseason

Nick Suss
Mississippi Clarion Ledger

OXFORD — Team building doesn't stop in February any more.

With one-time transfer legislation all but official, the timeline to add players in major college football is now 365 days a year. For Ole Miss, this means an opportunity to cash in on some of the scholarships it elected against using in the December and February signing periods and add some transfers who have a chance to contribute this fall, or to develop as part of the roster, for the next three or four years.

Spring practices have a way of exposing depth issues and creating questions. Now that Ole Miss has completed its spring session, here are three position groups where it might be smart for Ole Miss to attack the transfer portal.

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Tight end

Something feels slightly incomplete about Ole Miss' tight end room. Casey Kelly is the presumptive starter after catching six passes for 49 yards and a touchdown in the Outback Bowl. But he's still a former walk-on who missed the entirety of spring with an injury.

Behind him, there's depth like former transfer Chase Rogers and rising sophomore Damarcus Thomas, but neither player really contributed last year. And there's four-star freshman Hudson Wolfe, but he also missed all of spring and is a bit of a question mark heading into his first fall.

Like Ole Miss did with Kenny Yeboah last year, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Rebels target tight end in the transfer portal this offseason. Kelly, Wolfe and Thomas are young, so the Rebels don't need to go get a three- or four-year guy. But if someone can come in and fill the gap for one year as those guys develop, that'd be a best-case scenario.

Linebacker

Ole Miss already dipped into the transfer market once at linebacker, adding Maryland's Chance Campbell. But Campbell is a senior, as are returning linebackers Lakia Henry, Jacquez Jones and MoMo Sanogo.

Campbell, Jones and Sanogo could all opt to come back for second senior seasons, but those aren't guarantees. And beyond the seniors, Ole Miss has no returning experience and no incoming freshmen. 

Clearly linebacker should be a priority in the next recruiting cycle. But if the Rebels can add another scholarship linebacker, preferably one with two or three years of eligibility, to create a bridge to the future in the room, that'd be a huge add.

Edge rusher

Ole Miss isn't exactly thin on the edge. Sam Williams, Cedric Johnson, Brandon Mack, Tavius Robinson, Demon Clowney and Tariqious Tisdale are all returning. And Ole Miss signed six defensive linemen in the last recruiting cycle, including players like JJ Hawkins and Demarcus Smith who might be well-suited to rush the passer.

The problem is more that Ole Miss needs to get better at pressuring quarterbacks off the edge. Full stop.

Ole Miss hasn't had a truly dominant pass rusher since 2017 when Marquis Haynes and Breeland Speaks logged 7.5 and seven sacks. Williams has led the team each of the last two years but only has 10 sacks between those seasons. 

If Ole Miss can find a pass-rush specialist within its roster, that's great. Maybe it's someone like Johnson, who managed three sacks in limited exposure last season. Maybe it's a newcomer from the 2021 recruiting class. But if there's a player in the transfer market who can add that skill to Ole Miss' defense, the Rebels should add him.

Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or nsuss@gannett.com. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.