Ole Miss Football Practice Report: Class in Session

Published 10:41 am Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Class is in session on the Ole Miss campus, and as the work begins in the classroom, it continues on the practice field as well where the Rebel football team is just a dozen days away from the start of the 2022 season.

Head coach Lane Kiffin met with the media Monday, along with defensive lineman Tywone Malone and receiver Dayton Wade, to provide the latest from inside the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center.

While position battles are waged across the field, there lion’s share of outside attention is on the offensive backfield, where the Rebels must replace one of the top quarterbacks in program history, Matt Corral.

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Luke Altmyer returns as the incumbent, having thrown for 192 yards and a touchdown last season in backup of Corral. USC transfer Jaxson Dart joined the battle in the spring after throwing for 1,353 yards and nine touchdowns for the Trojans last season. Kinkead Dent has also shown 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 to this point, the quarterbacks remain the lead question just about every time Kiffin steps to the podium to meet with media.

“I know it sounds the same. They’re very close,” Kiffin said. “I feel like every day you could go out there and say one and then the next day say the other. It’ll be a tough call, which is a good thing.”

While Kiffin and Co. are still unsure as to who will be distributing the football on Saturdays this fall, they know that signal-caller will have some options on the outside. The wide receiver corps is as deep as ever in Oxford, including the presence of six key Division I transfers.

The Rebels had one key contributor at the position from the transfer portal last year. Jahcour Pearson joined Ole Miss as a walk-on from Western Kentucky and made the most of his opportunity, finishing as the team’s third-leading receiver with 392 yards on 26 receptions. Now, Ole Miss has another WKU walk-on transfer at the position, and Dayton Wade is already in position to replicate what Pearson did before him.

“Really good, much like Pearson last year,” Kiffin said. “Kind of a surprise, a walk-on kid who has come here and done really well and earned the right to play. Those are always added bonuses because they aren’t things you’re counting on and all of a sudden, they create depth, which is great.”

Wade had some options when he decided to leave Western Kentucky, but all it took was a call from Pearson for Wade to bet on himself and pack his bags for Oxford.

“It definitely was a gamble,” Wade said. “When I entered the portal, I was getting looks, I had a few offers and what not. One of my old teammates, Jahcour Pearson, he called me and this was around the time they were prepping for the Sugar Bowl. He was like, ‘Look, whatever you’ve got going on, forget about it. Come to Ole Miss. The way you play, what you can bring to the table, Lane Kiffin will love it.’ He just told me, here’s the blueprint, all you have to do is execute. So I believed in myself.”

Many Rebels are transitioning from high school or life at another university, but Tywone Malone is making a different transition—from baseball back to football.

Malone appeared in seven games for the Rebels on the baseball diamond, leading all non-starters with a .444 batting average and two home runs in just nine at-bats. While he wasn’t on the Rebels’ travel roster as they conquered Omaha and brought a national championship back home to Oxford, he certainly showed he has what it takes to compete on the diamond in the SEC, and now he’s back looking to prove the same on the gridiron.

“Just really cool, for someone to be a two-sport player. But you usually don’t have a big one, this size, a defensive lineman,” Kiffin said. “There’s good and bad to everything. The bad part is you have to work yourself back in because you missed some time. He’s doing a great job.”

The Jamesburg, New Jersey, native showed flashes on the football field as well last year. He appeared in just one game, but he made the most of it, tallying three tackles and his first career sack. After collecting a championship ring in baseball, Malone is set out to help the Rebel football team do the same.

“Fall camp has been good,” Malone said. “Everybody has unique skills. For me personally, it’s trying to get back into football. Coming back from baseball transitioning into football is a lot. So I’m just doing my techniques, doing what coach tells me to do and trying to get back in shape for the season.”