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Lane Kiffin not rushing to sort out Ole Miss football QB room as spring practice arrives

OXFORD — Ole Miss football coach Lane Kiffin has some quarterback decisions to make.

With two reserve QBs departing, it was clear the Rebels would need depth for returning starter Jaxson Dart. But not many anticipated that depth would take the shape of four-year Oklahoma State starter Spencer Sanders, entering his final season of eligibility. Add in a former high four-star prospect from LSU, Walker Howard, and it feels fair to wonder: Did Kiffin get depth for Dart, or make Dart the depth?

Spring practice, which began on Tuesday for Ole Miss, formally begins the process of answering that question. Asked about his evaluation process for the quarterbacks this spring, Kiffin went out of his way to point out that the Rebels have plenty of runway before they make their choice.

"We've got a long time ‒ spring and fall – to figure it out, let guys play," Kiffin said.

That would be consistent with how he's handled these situations recently. Kiffin did not name Dart his starting quarterback last season until four games into the 2022 campaign, after Ole Miss had completed its nonconference schedule.

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For now, Kiffin said he views the situation as being "very competitive."

"Our evaluation usually comes down to timing, accuracy and decision-making," he said. "Those are three things that forever we've kind of looked at."

Now, Kiffin explained, coaches are allowed to throw with their quarterbacks before the official onset of spring practice, whereas that had not previously been permitted by the NCAA.

He praised Dart for the way he's throwing at the moment. Dart, who transferred in from USC last offseason, completed 62.4% of his passes for 2,974 yards, 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last year. He also rushed for 614 yards and a TD.

"It looks like in the last season and the first year playing so much, having some time to recover, he's gotten stronger," Kiffin said. "He's looked really good and much improved, so that's exciting."

Kiffin explained that Sanders had not been doing much throwing due to a previous injury, but all three quarterbacks rotated through drills during the Rebels' first spring practice.

The priority this offseason, in Kiffin's mind, was to create depth – both at quarterback and elsewhere.

With Sanders' 67 career passing touchdowns in the Big 12 in the fold as well as Howard, the No. 5 quarterback in the 2022 recruiting cycle, Kiffin feels the Rebels now boast a much stronger collective room.

Which players make up the depth and which player leads the way, though, might take some time to figure out.

"The goal is to improve the depth of every room that you have," he said. "That's when you become a really good team. I think that if there was some rating of the quality of the room, I would certainly think that that room's improved from where it was a year ago."

David Eckert covers Ole Miss for the Clarion Ledger. Email him at deckert@gannett.com or reach him on Twitter @davideckert98.

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Ole Miss football: Lane Kiffin on quarterback competition in spring