Fresh faces to lead Ole Miss in 2022

Published 4:02 pm Monday, August 29, 2022

This year’s Ole Miss football roster is going to look a little different. 

Gone are the likes of Matt Corral, Sam Williams, Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner, but a new crop of talented athletes is eager to step in and prove that last season’s success was anything but a fluke. 

The Rebels signed the No. 2 transfer class this offseason to replace their NFL-bound superstars—replenishing their roster with skilled playmakers from across the country. 

Headlining Ole Miss’s impressive transfer class is the former USC quarterback/tight end duo of Jaxson Dart and Michael Trigg. 

Dart, who started six games for the Trojans last season, threw for 1,353 yards and nine touchdowns as a true freshman after becoming the full-time starter late in October. 

He is currently locked in a battle with fellow sophomore Luke Altmyer for the Rebels’ starting job, and head coach Lane Kiffin has not yet offered any clues as to who will line up under center come week one. 

Trigg, who played sparingly in his lone season with the Trojans, is a dynamic athlete with an outstanding catch radius who excels at getting off the line quickly and winning jump balls downfield. 

Expectations are through the roof for the 6-foot-4 tight end, who was named to the preseason watch list for the John Mackey Award in July. 

Trigg is not the only incoming transfer with superstar potential however. 

Running back Zack Evans, who joined the Rebels from TCU back in January, averaged over seven yards per carry over two seasons with the Horned Frogs, and was selected as a preseason Third-Team All-SEC honoree as he attempts to make the jump from the Big 12 to the SEC. 

He is joined in the backfield by SMU transfer Ulysses Bentley IV, who transferred to Ole Miss in March after three seasons with the Mustangs.

Bentley rushed for over 1,500 yards and racked up 17 total touchdowns during his time at SMU, and will be an excellent change-of-pace back behind Evans along with freshman Quinshon Judkins. 

The Rebels also added plenty of depth to their wide receiver room through the transfer portal—signing Jordan Watkins from Louisville, Jaylon Robinson from Central Florida, and Jacobi Moore and Malik Heath from Mississippi State.

Senior Jonathan Mingo is the undisputed No. 1 for Ole Miss, but Robinson, Watkins and Heath give Dart and Altmyer a plethora of targets to choose from following the departure of seniors Braylon Sanders and Dontario Drummond. 

The Rebels added depth and talent to the defensive side of the ball as well—bringing in defensive linemen Jared Ivey and J.J. Pegues, linebackers Khari Coleman, Troy Brown and Danny Lockhart, and defensive backs Isheem Young, Ladarius Tennison and Dashaun Jerkins. 

Ivey joined Ole Miss in January after two productive seasons at Georgia Tech. The talented edge rusher racked up 40 tackles, including seven for loss with the Yellow Jackets, and will provide high-quality depth on the defensive line behind Cedric Johnson and Tavius Robinson. 

Pegues, who graduated from Oxford High School in 2020, also signed with Ole Miss at the end of January following two years with SEC West rival Auburn. 

The Oxford native played a variety of positions for the Tigers, lining up at defensive end, defensive tackle, tight end and H-back. He will likely split time at defensive tackle with senior K.D. Hill, but don’t be surprised if Kiffin throws him in on offense during goalline situations. 

Coleman joined Ole Miss in February after a pair of productive seasons at TCU that garnered him Defensive Freshman of the Year honors in 2020 before recording 19 tackles and 1.5 sacks as a sophomore in 2021. 

He is joined at outside linebacker by Central Michigan transfer Troy Brown. The three-time First Team All-MAC selection was one of the top coverage linebackers in the Group of Five over the past three seasons, and is already garnering national attention after being named to the Butkus Award Watchlist for the best linebacker in college football. 

Young, another former Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, joined the Rebels in March following two years at Iowa State. The hard-hitting safety is an explosive tackler who excels at playing near the line of scrimmage and providing run support from the rover position. 

Young is not the only new addition who is adept at lowering the boom against unsuspecting defenders however. 

Auburn transfer Ladarius Tennison quickly established himself as one of the hardest hitters on the defense this spring, and will likely factor into the safety rotation next to Young and seniors Otis Reese and A.J. Finley. 

Lockhart and Jerkins are unlikely to see consistent playing time this season due to the Rebels’ depth of talent on the defensive side of the ball, but both are capable defenders who can step in and produce when called upon. 

Ole Miss is deeper than ever thanks to their work in the transfer portal, and Kiffin and company are hoping that depth will allow them to build on the foundation they established last season when they set a program record for regular-season wins (10) before falling to Baylor in the Sugar Bowl. 

The Rebels kick off their season on Sep. 3 when they host Troy at 3 p.m.