Lane Kiffin tabs Jaxson Dart starting quarterback

Sep. 4—OXFORD — It seems the Ole Miss quarterback derby is over.

Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin told reporters Monday that junior Jaxson Dart is the team's starting quarterback.

After being listed as a co-starter for the season opener against Mercer with Oklahoma State senior transfer Spencer Sanders, Dart was listed alone at the top of the newest depth chart released Monday.

Dart started against Mercer and completed 18 of 23 passes — including his first 11 in a row — for 334 yards and four touchdowns against the Bears in a 73-7 victory.

Sanders, who started 41 games at Oklahoma State and was first-team All-Big 12 in 2021, entered the Rebels' opener in the third quarter and finished 8 of 14 for 134 yards and two touchdowns.

"Jaxson played really well. And, like I've said, had a really good camp in spring. And so, he's the starting quarterback," Kiffin said. "I've said all along, we're extremely excited about that room, that depth in the room. ... In the team, each position group is its team within itself, and our goal is each year to improve that in the offseason. And that position's been dramatically improved, like you saw the play from all three guys that went in."

Dart started 12 games last season after transferring from USC in the winter of 2022. He threw for 2,974 yards, 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and ran for 614 yards last season. Sanders was a four-year starter at Oklahoma State, throwing for more than 9,500 yards, rushing for nearly 2,000 more with 85 total touchdowns.

"He's been here long enough to know that we teach them, control what you can control and be ready to play, and it's out of your control how many snaps you get to play," Kiffin said. "... We don't always expect you to agree with it, we tell the players, but we expect you to respect it and go play really hard regardless of what your role is."

Scouting Tulane

The Rebels' second game is no walk in the park, as Ole Miss plays at No. 24 Tulane Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in New Orleans.

The Green Wave won their opener against South Alabama and are coming off a 12-2 season where they defeated a top-10 USC team led by Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams in the Cotton Bowl.

Tulane quarterback Michael Pratt was named the AAC Offensive Player of the Week following his Week 1 performance against South Alabama. He completed 14 of 15 passes for 294 yards and four touchdowns.

Pratt was the starting quarterback the last time the Rebels and Green Wave played in 2021, a 61-21 Ole Miss victory at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Tulane won two games that season and proceed to have one of the all-time great turnarounds in 2022, winning 10 more games than the prior year.

Ole Miss is 42-28 all-time against Tulane, who was in the SEC until going independent in 1966.

"This will be a big challenge this week," Kiffin said. " ... This is an SEC football team. ... Going on the road is always challenging, especially with a new team. So, we'll have our hands full and have to perform really well and practice really well this week."

Jordan Watkins earns SEC Co-Special Teams Player of the Week

Senior wide receiver Jordan Watkins was named SEC Co-Special Teams Player of the Week after scoring a touchdown on a 70-yard punt return against Mercer. It was the first-career punt return for the former Louisville transfer, who led Ole Miss with 13 punt returns in 2022.

"It feels great. It's a sigh of relief, because being a punt returner is probably one of the most stressful things really on the field besides at quarterback," Watkins said. " ... Just to turn something small like that into a big play, it's awesome. It feels great."