The Lane Kiffin era is here, and I can't wait to see what this offense looks like against Florida
The Lane Kiffin era is officially set to begin Saturday when the Rebels host Florida.
In a year that is sure to look unlike any other, expectations are difficult to craft. Ole Miss is a relatively inexperienced team with a lot of young talent on offense.
Honestly, I can’t wait to see what Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby do with this offense. Entering the opener, here are 3 primary questions I have:
1. How long is Corral’s leash?
Ole Miss released its game-week depth chart Monday and did not cement a starting quarterback. “Matt Corral or John Rhys Plumlee” was listed under the quarterback slot. But all indications are that Corral has won the starting job and will be under center against the school he was committed to before singing with the Rebels.
If so, how will Ole Miss handle that delicate situation? Indecisiveness by the previous staff in 2019 undermined both of their developments and resulted in a predictable rotation.
How will Kiffin and Lebby handle it if Corral struggles? How long will they back him if the offense is stagnant and Ole Miss begins to fall behind?
Conversely, how will Plumlee be used if Corral plays well and the offense clicks?
Plumlee’s quickness is too elite to be confined to the sideline, but his willingness to play another position remains unclear. This will be a fascinating storyline to watch play out as Kiffin has been pretty tight-lipped about his intentions throughout camp. The only real certainty is that both will likely play in some capacity, as Kiffin alluded to Monday.
“I mean that’s tough to answer,” Kiffin said. “I mean one of them is going to start and there’s a good chance both of them will play.”
2. Which receiver becomes a complementary threat to Elijah Moore?
The catch disparity between junior slot receiver Elijah Moore and the rest of the Rebels receiving corps has been talked about ad nauseam. (Moore caught 67 passes; Jerrion Ealy added 20, but no other receiver caught more than 13.)
Ole Miss struggled in the passing game last year under Rodriguez. That is sure to change with the more balanced and conventional system Lebby and Kiffin have implemented. They inherited some interesting pieces that didn’t get much of a fair shake in 2019 because of the scheme.
Sophomore Jonathan Mingo (12 catches) and senior Dontario Drummond (13 catches) were listed as the starters on the outside. Mingo has turned heads in camp and sounds as if he is emerging into the reliable, physical perimeter target Ole Miss lacked last season with D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown and DaMarkus Lodge all having departed the program.
Senior Braylon Sanders (10 catches) is listed behind Drummond. Sanders is the most proven wideout behind Moore, and when healthy, has a chance to become a consistent deep threat who will help alleviate the pressure and focus off Moore in the middle of the field. There’s also Demarcus Gregory (6 catches) and Miles Battle (2 catches), a pair of sophomores who have yet to do much on the field. What is to make of them?
The success and dependability of Ole Miss’ second and third receivers behind Moore will go a long way in determining this team’s success in 2020.
3. How much of a factor is the tight end?
Ole Miss has criminally underutilized the tight end position since Evan Engram left the program in 2016. Former offensive coordinator Phil Longo neglected Dawson Knox to the point that Knox’s first touchdown since high school came last season as a member of the Buffalo Bills. Last year, the tight end was hardly a factor either as seniors Jason Pellerin and Octavious Cooley combined for 24 catches and just 1 TD.
Again, this season is sure to be different. Kiffin coached the reigning Mackey Award winner in Harrison Bryant. He brought in Temple transfer Kenny Yeboah, and Louisiana transfer Chase Rogers will see some snaps as well. How will the tight end be utilized and how much of a crutch will it be for Corral (or Plumlee) in the passing game? It will be fascinating to watch how Yeboah is used and what that does to open up the rest of the offense.
As of now, Ole Miss will have its full roster available this weekend as the program announced its second consecutive week without a positive test.
How Kiffin and Lebby use this collection of talent and how successful the offense is as a result will be exciting to watch play out as the Rebels wade into the 2020 season.