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Texas A&M Football

Replicating '21 success in Oxford dependent on success of new faces

July 15, 2022

An Ole Miss 10-win football season in 2021 was a surprise. Duplicating that feat in 2022 would qualify as a shock.

The Rebels, who are 15-8 in two seasons under coach Lane Kiffin, are not projected to be pushovers this year. After all, they return an experienced offensive line and add heralded transfers in running back Zach Evans from TCU and quarterback Jaxson Dart from USC.

Still, Dart only started a handful of games for the Trojans. Not even the most optimistic in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium would think that he’s the equal of departed quarterback Matt Corral, a third-round draft choice of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Former five-star and one-time A&M target Zach Evans figures to get a bulk of the carries in Lane Kiffin’s backfield following one season at TCU.

And though Evans had a strong showing in Fort Worth before a toe injury derailed his 2021 campaign, the Rebels will have a hard time matching last year’s rushing success.

They were 11th in the nation in rushing a year ago, but the trio of running backs Jerrion Ealy, Snoop Conner and Henry Parrish Jr. are all gone.

Yet, an even more missed trio figures to be defensive end Sam Williams, linebacker Chance Campbell and linebacker Mark Robinson, who were all taken in the 2022 NFL Draft.

They were arguably the three best players on an overachieving defense, which allowed an average of 24.7 points.

Also gone is defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, who left for Texas A&M.

Ole Miss struggled against the run last season. The struggle could be worse this season.

And the Rebels don’t be as equipped to prevail in high-scoring contests as they were a year ago when they exceeded 30 points in eight of their victories.

Area of Strength: It might surprise some to know that Ole Miss was second in the SEC in rushing offense last season. Four of five starters from the offensive line are back, though some are at different positions. Left tackle Nick Broeker — potentially a high NFL Draft choice — is expected to move from left tackle to guard. Junior center Caleb Warren will be a third-year starter. The Rebels feel like they hit the jackpot with Western Kentucky transfer Mason Brooks at right tackle. The line look to decrease the 34 sacks allowed in 2021, but that was in a system that attempted more than 400 passes.

Area of Concern: There are only two linebackers in the Ole Miss 3-2-6 scheme, and both are relatively inexperienced. Senior Ashanti Cistrunk, who had just 28 tackles in 2021, left spring practice as the inside starter. The Rebels are counting on transfers Troy Brown or Khari Coleman at weak-side linebacker. Brown managed 66 tackles last season at Central Michigan. Coleman had 19 at TCU.

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
Dart threw for 1,353 yards and nine touchdowns for USC in 2021.

Impact Newcomer: Much has been made over USC quarterback transfer Jaxson Dart. Once a four-star recruit, he passed for 1,353 yards and nine touchdowns last season. However, the Rebels may get a bigger boost from TCU transfer running back Zach Evans. The nation’s No. 2 running back prospect in 2020, Evans rushed for 648 yards last season until a toe injury forced him out of the final five games.

Top players

  • S AJ Finley: In 2021, he posted the fourth-highest tackles total with 90. He also led Ole Miss in interceptions with three.
  • WR Jonathan Mingo: Ole Miss always seems to have a standout receiver. It’s Mingo’s turn. Last season, he caught 22 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns in six games. Look for those numbers to at least double.
  • G Nick Broeker: A four-year starter, he shifts from left tackle to guard. Coach Lane Kiffin projects he’s better suited to play inside.

2022 schedule

  • Sept. 3 vs. Troy
  • Sept. 10 vs. Central Arkansas
  • Sept. 17 at Georgia Tech
  • Sept. 24 vs. Tulsa
  • Oct. 1 vs. Kentucky
  • Oct. 8 at Vanderbilt
  • Oct. 15 vs. Auburn
  • Oct. 22 at LSU
  • Oct. 29 at Texas A&M
  • Nov. 12 vs Alabama
  • Nov. 19 at Arkansas
  • Nov. 24 vs. Mississippi State
Discussion from...

Replicating '21 success in Oxford dependent on success of new faces

2,536 Views | 4 Replies | Last: 6 mo ago by SEC Champs
Ag in ATL
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Hmmm. Their schedule is front-loaded with all non-conference games then only have the open date between us and 'Bama, They might be tired or banged up by the time we play them in the ninth of a nine straight stretch. They do have Vandy in the middle so maybe that counts is the typical SEC cupcake in the middle of the SEC portion of the season.
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Ole Miss will play 9 consecutive games that end with road games at Baton Rouge and College Station. I predict Ole Miss will start 7-0 before losing 4 consecutive games to LSU, Texas A&M, Alabama, and Arkansas. Then, Ole Miss will snap that losing streak with a home win over Mississippi State for their 3rd consecutive Egg Bowl win and an 8-4 (4-4 SEC) regular season.
SEC Champs
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Ole Miss was gutted from the front office down. Expect to see a drop off similar to LSU after their title run, with 1-2 more losses.
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