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Sneak Peek: The Ole Miss Rebels

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The Lane Train is back in the SEC

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be taking a quick look at every Auburn opponent on the 2020 schedule.

2019 Record: 4-8 (2-6)

2020 Signing Class: 34th (12th SEC)

Head Coach: Lane Kiffin (1st Season)

Key Departures:

  • RB Scottie Phillips - 125 carries 542 yds 4.3 avg 5 TD 8 rec 77 yds 9.6 avg TD
  • DE Charles Wiley - 27 tackles 5.0 TFL 3.0 sacks
  • DT Benito Jones - 30 tackles 10.0 TFL 5.5 sacks INT
  • CB Jalen Julius - 68 carries 3.0 TFL sack 7 PBU

Key Returners:

  • QB John Rhys Plumlee (So) - 79/150 (52.7%) 910 yds 4 TD 3 INT 154 carries 1,023 yds 6.6 avg 12 TD
  • QB Matt Corral (So) - 105/178 (59%) 1,362 yds 6 TD 3 INT rushing TD
  • RB Jerion Ealy (So) - 104 carries 722 yds 6.9 avg 6 TD 20 rec 172 yds 8.6 avg TD
  • WR Elijah Moore (Jr) - 67 rec 850 yds 12.7 avg 6 TD
  • DE Sam Williams (Sr) - 38 tackles 9.5 TFL 6.0 sacks INT FF
  • LB Lakia Henry (Sr) - 87 tackles 3.5 TFL sack PBU
  • LB Jacquez Jones (Sr) - 71 tackles 7.5 TFL 2.0 sacks PBU 2 FF

Preview

Matt Luke served as sacrificial lamb for his alma mater as the program recovered from the Hugh Freeze induced NCAA sanctions. But with probation being lifted in November, the Rebels are preparing to make another run as contender in the SEC. So they disposed of their faithful son and hired one of the flashiest names available, Lane Kiffin.

Kiffin has come a long way from being left on the tarmac at LAX. There were some eye rolls when Nick Saban named Kiffin his new OC in 2014 but the move quickly proved beneficial to both parties. The Tide won three straight SEC titles, appeared in two national championships and won one in 2015. That success allowed Kiffin to land the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic where he lead the Owls to two 10 win seasons in three years and two conference championships.

He inherits some intriguing offensive talent heading into 2020. Both former blue chip quarterbacks Matt Corral and John Rhys Plumlee are back. Corral is regarded as the better passer while Plumlee is a fantastic athlete who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season. It will be interesting to see what Kiffin decides to do at that position.

The player that should be most excited about Kiffin’s hiring is former 5-star running back Jerion Ealy. The two sport athlete was one of the most electric playmakers in the SEC last season averaging almost 7 yards a carry. Kiffin loves to feed his best offensive player the ball. That likely means a monster sophomore season for Ealy.

There are questions at wide receiver though last year’s leading receiver is back in Elijah Moore. Most famous for his would have been game tying Egg Bowl touchdown celebration, Moore had a strong sophomore campaign topping 800 yards receiving. He will likely be the top target again in 2020 but who will be the #2 receiver is very much in the air.

Ole Miss also returns its starting offensive line. Lane Kiffin will have plenty of proven talent to work with this fall.

Where talent is in much shorter supply is on the defensive side of the ball. The Rebels defense has been woeful since 2015 and I doubt it will be much better this fall. They do return their best pass rusher in Sam Williams along with last year’s two leading tacklers at linebacker in Lakia Henry and Jacquez Jones. DJ Durkin (yes that DJ Durkin) and Chris Partridge have their work cut out for them if they are hoping to field an SEC calibre unit this year.

The Rebels are going to put some points on the board in 2020. Lane Kiffin is a proven playcaller and he’s got a lot of production returning on that side of the ball. But that defense is extremely suspect which means Ole Miss fans should hope for plenty of shootouts. Ole Miss will also be retiring Eli Manning’s jersey during this game but I don’t see a 2003 repeat in the cards.

War Eagle!