Lane Kiffin enters Year 4 with another quarterback competition and several questions to answer elsewhere.

Will issues be solved in Saturday’s Grove Bowl? Probably not entirely, but let’s take a look at the 5 biggest storylines heading into the spring game.

Pete Golding’s defense

One of the biggest storylines in the offseason was former Alabama defensive coordinator Pete Golding leaving Alabama for Ole Miss. Golding was successful at Alabama, as most DCs are, but now he doesn’t have the added bonus of Nick Saban in his ear to help, either.

Time will tell whether that’s good or bad, but with so many notable losses on defense from a year ago, Golding will have his hands full in figuring out what kind of defense and wants to run and who is going to run it. Of the Rebels’ 5 losses in 2022, the defense gave up 40+ points 3 times. On the flip side, the Rebels gave up more than 30 points only once in their 8 wins.

So Golding has some pieces to work with, but he’ll have to work fast. How fast? That depends on how these guys react to the scheme change and if they can do what Golding will ask of them. You can probably count on Golding running a similar defense at Ole Miss than he did in Alabama but more importantly does he have the personnel to pull it off without having to tweak it too much?

Finding help for Quinshon Judkins

As a freshman, Judkins set the Ole Miss single-season record with 1,567 rushing yards in 2022, but Ole Miss has to find him some help. Judkins’ production skyrocketed in the second half of the season as Ole Miss rode the hot hand. The downside was Judkins also led the SEC with 274 carries — the most any SEC back has had since Benny Snell rushed 289 times for Kentucky in 2018. Furthermore, only 4 SEC freshman running backs topped 200 carries in the previous 13 seasons — with Marcus Lattimore’s 249 touches in 2010 being the most.

Can Judkins continue that pace? Is it healthy to try? Having more than one running back is vital. Ulysses Bentley has to be that guy. After a frustrating season last year due to injury, Bentley is ready to show that he can be that change of pace that the Rebels need him to be. His wrist doesn’t seem to be bothering him so far through the spring and all signs point to him being exactly where he needs to be come September. In 11 games that Bentley saw action in with SMU in 2021, he racked up 610 yards rushing, 4 rushing touchdowns and caught 19 passes for 90 yards and a score as well. A healthy Bentley is exactly what the Rebels need.

Receiver help

Gone are Malik Heath and Jonathon Mingo and a perfect opportunity opens up for Jordan Watkins, Dayton Wade and JJ Henry, and former Louisiana Tech receiver Tre Harris. The Rebels also added Memphis transfer tight end Caden Prieskorn, who had 48 catches for 602 yards and 7 touchdowns last year and should instantly be plugged in as a reliable safety blanket for whoever starts at QB.

The hopeful return of pass protection

The overall numbers were good: 16 sacks allowed, 3rd-fewest in the SEC.

The problem is the protection fell apart late and coincided with the Rebels’ late-season dip.

Ole Miss allowed just 2 sacks in getting off to a 7-0 start. The Rebels surrendered 11 sacks in the final 5 regular-season games — 4 of which they lost. The Rebels return 4 starters on the line and added senior transfers Victor Curne and Quincy McGee. At minimum, there will be rotational options.

As good as the line was in rush offense last year, balance is the key everyone will be looking for coming out of the spring game.

The QB battle

It’s the most important position on the field and biggest question: Who will start the season-opener?

Jaxson Dart returns, but Kiffin added former Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders as well as former LSU quarterback Walker Howard. Slice it any way you want it, but Kiffin has 3 viable options.

Dart presumably has the upper hand given his success in this offense last year, but Sanders is an experienced veteran (1,254 career attempts, 67 TD passes, 40 INTs), and Howard was the No. 5-ranked QB in the 2022 class.

It’s extremely doubtful any resolutions will be made Saturday — especially with the transfer portal reopening on April 15 for 2 weeks, but it’ll be interesting to see the pecking order, play calls and style each QB brings to the offense.