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Ole Miss depth charts being affected by COVID-19

With a little over three weeks before Ole Miss begins the 2020 college football season, Lane Kiffin is having a hard time solidifying a depth chart due to COVID-19.

The Rebels have battled the novel coronavirus since the summer when they returned to campus in June for voluntary workouts. Players have tested positive and forced to quarantine but with the calendar now turned to September, practices are starting to become affected.

“I get texts in the morning as people say ‘these three people failed COVID test, and there’s more in close contact,’” Kiffin said. “It’s hard to even figure out who our first and second units are because it is changing so much.”

The one position group that has struggled to get everyone on the practice field at the same time is the defensive backs.

Some of those players have returned to practice but due to all the protocols a player has to go through once out of quarantine includes an acclimation period and a slow progression back into a full practice. By abiding by those rules, players who test positive or are forced to quarantine could miss up to nearly a month worth of practice, and possibly games if this occurs once the season begins.

“There are a couple guys back, but when they first come back they’re not back,” Kiffin said. “First, we’re told (they’ll be gone) those 14 days but when they come back they have to get more tests to make sure they’re okay then they have to be worked back in slowly. It’s almost like they’re gone three weeks. It’s a long time.”

For the players who have not tested positive or back from quarantine, the challenge of trying to stay healthy and avoid contract COVID-19 is difficult.

Players take all the precautions necessary and follow the protocols, but knowing teammates have caught creates the need to be even more careful away from the practice field and out in the community or even back at their home where some players live together.

“It’s a lot of frustration. Odds are that you’re not going to get into close contact because of what happens here,” said linebacker MoMo Sanogo. “Because we are required to wear masks in meetings and anytime we are walking somewhere. Odds are it’s like, hanging out with somebody outside. When it kept happening and kept happening, at one point we had a lot of guys out and none of it for COVID, just close contact. (It was) just precautionary and woke people’s minds up.”

Ole Miss begins their season on Sept. 26 against Florida. With the game still three weeks away, Kiffin said on Monday that any players who might miss the season opener due to COVID-19 would be from testing positive between now and then. Most players who have been or are still currently out should be able to play.

The Southeastern Conference announced kickoff times and channel information for the first couple weeks of the season on Tuesday. The Rebels and Gators will kickoff at 11 a.m. on ESPN.