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Ole Miss Rebels Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Ole Miss season with what you need to know and keys to the season.
Ole Miss Rebels Preview
Lane Kiffin: 15-8, 3rd year at Ole Miss
12th year overall, 76-41, 2021 Preview
2021 Record: Overall: 10-3, Conference: 6-2
Offense, Defense Breakdown | Keys To The Season
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Ole Miss Top 10 Players | Ole Miss Schedule & Analysis
Ole Miss Rebels Preview 2022
Is there anyone you’d rather have as your head coach during all these changes to college football than Lane Kiffin?
As is, the guy is the best at cutting through the bullspit of the SEC and how the game is played on and off the field, and there’s no one better at taking the whiz out of a Nick Saban and any other big-name figure who takes the sport too seriously.
While Saban and Jimbo are off having a slap-fight over how the sausage is made, Kiffin is effectively pointing out that it’s not 1998. Recruiting practices don’t have to hide underground anymore.
We’re essentially paying players now? We’re allowed to go shopping for whoever’s available? Okay … let’s go.
And while all of this is happening across the college football world with the NIL stuff, transfer portal, and other aspects, remember that this is Ole Miss, not Alabama, or USC, or Texas, or Ohio State. This is a very good program, but it’s hardly a powerhouse with all of the advantages that come with it.
A place like this has to embrace all the changes to be able to compete in the toughest division in the toughest conference in the country. Kiffin unapologetically is showing how this should be done.
If unfettered college football free agency is kosher, let’s eat.
Meanwhile, lost in all the Lane Kiffiness is that he’s a whale of a coach.
Ole Miss just won ten games and got to the Sugar Bowl. While that got a wee bit lost in in the weeds with the debate about whether or not Matt Corral should’ve played in the bowl, and all the other topics of college football discussion late last year, it was the team’s first winning season since 2015.
Give Baylor credit for the win – and blame Kiffin and the team for not being able to adjust when Corral got hurt – but if the starting quarterback stayed in one piece and the Rebels pulled that off, the 11 wins in one season would’ve been the most in the history of the program.
Kiffin has always been underappreciated and overlooked as a head coach because his personality hasn’t exactly played well with others over the years, but before it was possible to get Lincoln Riley, he would’ve been perfect to go through a Round 2 at USC.
You had an opening, Notre Dame. Marcus Freeman might be a great prospect, but ….
You had an opening, LSU. Brian Kelly might have been ultra-successful with the Irish, but …
You had an opening, Oregon. Can you imagine what that guy would’ve done with that program that’s already operating at the forefront of college marketing and branding?
You got him, Ole Miss. Keep enjoying this ride on the Lane Train while your can.
Ole Miss Rebels Preview 2022: Offense, Defense NEXT
Ole Miss Rebels Preview 2022: Offense
The offense is going to work just fine. Yeah, Matt Corral was great, and yeah, the players make the machine go, but Lane Kiffin really is an elite offensive mind with the coaching staff that knows what it’s doing.
Ole Miss led the SEC in total offense, averaged 34 points per game, and it all worked about about 240 miles per hour. There might be a whole lot of new names and new parts, but nothing stops. However …
The offensive line needs to be stronger at keeping defenses out of the backfield. It was fine for what the O had to do and was great for the ground game, but it was awful in pass protection – Corral got beaten to a pulp; partly because of his own doing, and partly because of the blocking.
There will be some movement in the front five to get the pieces in the right spots. Nick Broeker is a pro prospect whether it’s at tackle or guard, Caleb Warren can play anywhere in the interior, and Mason Brooks comes from WKU as a ready-made right tackle who knows how to pass protect.
The running backs are starting over. Instead of Jerrion Ealy, Snoop Conner, and Henry Parrish, the Rebels went and fixed the glitch through the transfer portal with Zach Evans (TCU) and Ulysses Bentley (SMU). Those two combined for over 3,000 yards of total offense and 27 scores at their respective schools.
The Rebels might have lost the ultra-efficient, multi-talented Corral, but there’s a chance they got an even better passer by landing Jaxson Dart from USC. Luke Altmyer is deep in the mix for the starting job after serving as the backup to Corral, and Kinkead Dent got in a little work, but …
A guy with Dart’s talent doesn’t go to Ole Miss unless he knew it really was the place for him.
Like the running backs, the wide receivers are getting an overhaul from the transfer portal. The top three receivers from last year are gone, but Jonathan Mingo is back after making 22 catches before getting hurt – he missed over half of the season hurt – and Dennis Jackson is back after averaging over 20 yards per catch.
This group will be about the new guys. Jordan Watkins from Louisville and Malik Heath from Mississippi State should be the best of the lot, UCF’s Jaylon Robinson is a dangerous deep threat and tight end Michael Trigg out of USC should start right away.
Ole Miss Rebels Preview 2022: Defense
So here’s the good part about the 2021 Ole Miss defense. It improved in a big way from the 2020 version, and was the program’s best since 2014. Here’s the bad part about last year’s D – it was 97th in the nation overall, was awful against the run, and there wasn’t a penalty that this group didn’t like to commit.
The transfer portal isn’t bringing in the bulk starters like the offensive side is, but the depth has been fortified by a whole lot of new guys including from the great recruiting class.
The pass rush was good, but top sacker Sam Williams and his 12.5 sacks are done. Edge rusher Cedrick Johnson was No. 2 with 6.5 sacks. He’s back on the outside helped by TCU transfer Khari Coleman and Georgia Tech’s Jared Ivey. Isaiah Iton, KD Hill, and Jamond Gordon will go along with Auburn transfer JJ Pegues for the inside – it’ll be a big, good rotation.
The two and the 4-2-5 will make a whole bunch of plays. Ashanti Cistrunk will step up into a bigger role in the middle – taking over for leading tackler Chance Campbell – but the real star should be Troy Brown, a three-time First Team All-MAC playmaker who gets all over the field.
The defensive backs do most of the heavy lifting for a D that often gets six guys on the field. The safeties have playmakers with leading returning tackler Otis Reese back after finishing third on the team with 91 stops.
AJ Finley made 90 tackles and led the team with three interceptions, and on the way is Isheem Young from Iowa State after making 105 tackles and forcing five fumbles in two years. Miles Battle leads a decent group of corners, but the backups are you and need more work.
Ole Miss Rebels: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats NEXT
Ole Miss Rebels: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats
Ole Miss Rebels: Key To The 2022 Offense
The offense cranked up more yards than anyone in the SEC, and the 34 points per game were hardly bad, it was surprisingly mediocre on third down conversions and was shockingly horrible at scoring in the red zone.
By the way, this was a problem in 2020, too.
The Rebels got inside the 20 69 times – only WKU and Utah got there more – but they only scored 75% of the time. They were tied for third in the nation in red zone trips, but was 115th at putting the biscuit in the basket.
They were 4-for-4 against Tennessee, and they needed every one of those scores. The same went for the 52-51 win over Arkansas, going 3-for-3, and scoring all five times was a big deal in the victory over Mississippi State.
They scored four times in eight chances in the loss to Auburn, and came away empty on both trips inside the 20 in the bowl loss to Baylor.
Ole Miss Rebels: Key To The 2022 Defense
Be better against the run.
To roll off the earlier blurb about the defense, on the plus side, the run defense was far better than it was in 2020.
It was still awful, allowing 191 yards per game and 25 touchdowns, giving up 200 yards or more in seven of the last ten games.
Ole Miss managed to beat Arkansas despite giving up 350 yards on the ground, and Liberty rumbled for 284 yards and only scored 14 points in its loss. However, even though a tight run D hasn’t necessarily correlated to wins under Lane Kiffin, good things happen when allowing teams to run for four yards or fewer. Ole Miss was 5-0 last year when it did that.
Ole Miss Rebels: Key Player To The 2022 Season
DE Cedric Johnson, Jr.
He was a strong playmaker last year with 6.5 sacks, 33 tackles, and seven quarterback hurries, but can he take his game a up a few more notches with leading pass rusher Sam Williams gone?
The transfer portal certainly helped, Khari Coleman from TCU and Jared Ivey of Georgia Tech as veteran edge rushers, but Johnson is the most productive veteran who can make the defense a whole lot nastier if he’s great.
Ole Miss Rebels: Key Transfer
LB Troy Brown, Sr.
QB Jaxson Dart from USC is the most important transfer, and you can point out any one of the gajillion free agents coming in as a key new part. Brown, though, is the most accomplished get and should make a massive impact from his linebacker spot.
He’s not huge – he had to bulk up to get to 220 pounds on his 6-1 frame – but the three-time First Team All-MAC performer at Central Michigan comes in with 212 career tackles, 6.5 sacks, and 32.5 tackles for loss with five picks in his four seasons.
Ole Miss Key Game To The 2022 Season
at LSU, Oct. 22
As long as Ole Miss doesn’t screw up, and if it’s able to dominate in Oxford, there’s a great chance it could and should be 7-0 going into the big stretch of the season.
After dealing with Auburn at home, the Rebels have to make the trip to LSU. That’s followed up by a trip to Texas A&M, and then comes a week off before getting Alabama, and then comes the date at Arkansas, and it’s all closed out with the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State.
So before the LSU game, get ready for the “is Ole Miss for real?” conversation. This game against what should be a jelled team under Brian Kelly will start to give the answer.
Ole Miss Rebels: 2021 Fun Stats
– 2nd Quarter Scoring: Ole Miss 167 – Opponents 79
– 4th Down Conversions: Ole Miss 31-of-49 (63%) – Opponents 17-of-35 (49%)
– Penalties: Ole Miss 117 for 978 yards – Opponents 82 for 692 yards
Ole Miss Rebels Season Prediction, What Will Happen NEXT
Ole Miss Rebels Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Load up and load up big over the first half of the season.
This all depends on just how quickly all of the new parts are able to jell.
Can the new quarterback – likely Jaxson Dart – mesh instantly with the transfer portal types as they all try to make the O go? Can the defense be just a wee bit better in case the offense isn’t quite ready for primetime?
The talent is undeniable across the board, and the coaching is fantastic. The schedule also helps the cause – at least until late October – getting Kentucky and Vanderbilt from the East and missing Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee.
Set The Ole Miss Rebels Regular Season Win Total At … 8
Troy, Central Arkansas, at Georgia Tech, Tulsa. The Rebels have to take down September without breathing hard.
Kentucky, at Vanderbilt, Auburn. Tough, but the Wildcats and Tigers have to walk into Vaught-Hemingway.
The brutal kick of three road games in four dates – with the home oasis against Alabama – will be a problem, and beating Mississippi State is never easy.
Even so, assume eight wins and go from there.