OXFORD, Miss.- Class is in session at the Ole Miss campus, and as work begins in the classroom, it also continues on the training ground where the rebel football team is only a dozen days away. from the start of the 2022 season.
The head coach Lane Kiffin met with the media on Monday, along with defensive lineman Tywone Malone and receiver Dayton Wadeto provide the latest from inside the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center.
While positional battles are fought across the field, the lion’s share of outside attention is on the offensive backfield, where the Rebels must replace one of the best quarterbacks in program history, Matt Coral.
Luc Altmyer returns as a starter, having thrown for 192 yards and a touchdown last season as a Corral backup. USC transfer Jaxson Dart joined the fray in the spring after throwing for 1,353 yards and nine touchdowns for the Trojans last season. perverse tooth also showed promise this fall, even earning praise from Kiffin for his performance in the Rebels’ scrimmage two weeks ago.
While there hasn’t been a clear leader on the field so far, quarterbacks remain the main question pretty much every time Kiffin takes to the podium to meet the media.
“I know it sounds the same. They’re very close,” Kiffin said. “I feel like every day you can go out there and say one and then the next day say the other. It’s going to be a tough call, which is a good thing.”
FOLLOW THE STEPS
While Kiffin and Co. still don’t know who will hand out football on Saturdays this fall, they do know the caller will have a few options on the outside. The wide receiver corps is deeper than ever at Oxford, including the presence of six key Division I transfers.
The Rebels had a key contributor at the transfer gate position last year. Jahcour Pearson joined Ole Miss as a backup for Western Kentucky and capitalized on his opportunity, finishing third on the team with 392 yards on 26 receptions. Now Ole Miss has another walk-in WKU at the station, and Dayton Wade is already able to replicate what Pearson did before him.
“Really good, kind of like Pearson last year,” Kiffin said. “Kind of a surprise, a kid who came here and did really well and won the right to play. It’s always extra bonuses because those aren’t things you rely on and all of a sudden , they create depth, which is great.”
Wade had a few options when he decided to leave Western Kentucky, but all it took was one call from Pearson for Wade to bet on himself and pack his bags for Oxford.
“It was definitely a gamble,” Wade said. “When I walked into the portal, I was getting looks, I had a few offers and so on. One of my former teammates, Jahcour Pearson, he called me and it was around the time they were getting ready for the Sugar Bowl. He was like, ‘Look, whatever you do, forget it. Come to Ole Miss. The way you play, what you can bring to the table, Lane Kiffin will love it.’ He just said to me, here’s the plan, all you have to do is execute it. So I believed in myself.”
Many Rebels are transitioning from high school or life at another college, but Tywone Malone made a different transition – from baseball to football.
Malone appeared in seven games for the Rebels on the baseball field, leading all non-starters with a .444 batting average and two homers in just nine at-bats. Although he wasn’t on the Rebels’ travel roster when they conquered Omaha and brought back a national championship to Oxford, he certainly showed he has what it takes to compete on the SEC diamond, and now he’s looking to prove the same on the grill again.
“It’s really cool, for someone to be a two-sport player. But you don’t usually get a big one, that size, defensive lineman,” Kiffin said. “There’s good and bad in everything. The bad side is that you have to pick yourself up because you ran out of time. He’s doing a great job.”
The Jamesburg, New Jersey native also showed flashes on the football field last year. He only played one game, but he made the most of it, collecting three tackles and his first career sack. After retrieving a baseball championship ring, Malone sets out to help the rebel football team do the same.
“Fall camp was good,” Malone said. “Everyone has unique skills. For me personally, it’s about trying to get back into football. Coming back from baseball and moving into football is a lot. So I just do my techniques, I do what the coach tells me to do it and I’m trying to get back in shape for the season.”