Game primer: road test in Atlanta awaits Rebels

Published 12:59 pm Saturday, September 17, 2022

WHAT TO WATCH FOR
• Ole Miss and Georgia Tech are meeting for the fifth time, with the series tied at 2-2.
• Three of the four contests between the Rebels and Yellow Jackets have been in bowl games.
• Georgia Tech won the lone non-neutral game between the two teams in 1946, 24-7 (Grant Field).
• 56 of the 125 players (45 percent) on the Rebel roster are newcomers and are in their first season at Ole Miss.
• Ole Miss has allowed just 13 total points through the first two games of 2022, the fewest allowed to start a season by a Rebel squad since 1991 (3pts).
• Ole Miss is 159-92-7 (.630 winning pct.) all-time during the month of September after vacated wins.
• The Rebels are 112-41-6 (.723 winning pct.) all-time versus non-conference opponents during the month.
• A total of 36 different Rebels have made their Ole Miss debut during the first two weeks of the season.
• The Rebels rank No. 9 in FBS in sacks per game (4.0) and No. 12 in tackles for loss per game (10.0).
• The Ole Miss defense leads the SEC and ranks eighth nationally with six takeaways through two games this year.
• Quinshon Judkins (95.5) and Zach Evans (91.5) are the only pair of teammates in the country averaging 90-plus yards rushing per game.
• TE Michael Trigg is second in the SEC, No. 9 nationally with three receiving TDs.
• WR Jonathan Mingo is No. 2 in the SEC in yards per reception (21.5).
• LB Khari Coleman ranks No. 12 in FBS in total sacks (2.5).
• DT KD Hill was awarded the Chucky Mullins Courage Award and will wear No. 38 throughout the 2022 season.

OLE MISS HEAD COACH LANE KIFFIN
Lane Kiffin (Fresno State, 1998) is in his third season at Ole Miss and helped lead the Rebels to back-to-back bowl appearances in his first two years in Oxford. Kiffin guided the Rebels to a 10-3 record in 2021, the first 10-win regular season in school history. That included a perfect 7-0 mark at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, part of an ongoing 11-game home win streak for Kiffin’s teams. The Rebels finished the season ranked No. 11 in both the AP and AFCA Coaches Poll; its highest final ranking since 2016. Ole Miss ranked top-20 in the FBS in nine different offensive categories in his first season, including having the No. 3 team in the country in total offense, shattering the school record with 555.5 yards per game. Kiffin is in his 11th year at the NCAA level and has posted an all-time record of 76-42. In December 2016, Kiffin took over an FAU program that had won a total of nine combined games over the previous three seasons. Kiffin proceeded to take the Owls to new heights over the last three years, including two conference titles and two 10-win seasons. In his head coaching stops at USC, Tennessee and FAU, Kiffin has shown a propensity in helping turn programs around. Kiffin graduated from Fresno State in 1998 after playing quarterback for three seasons (1994-96) for the Bulldogs. He began his coaching career as a student assistant at Fresno State under Pat Hill in 1997 and 1998. He moved on to Colorado State in 1999 as a graduate assistant.

GEORGIA TECH HEAD COACH GEOFF COLLINS
In his fourth season as head coach, Georgia Tech’s Geoff Collins carries a 10-26 coaching record with the Yellow Jackets into his matchup with the Rebels. This marks Collins’ sixth season as a head coach in college football, having served two years at the helm of Temple prior to heading to Georgia Tech, where he led the Owls to a record of 15-10 and clinched back-to-back bowl games appearances for the team. Since arriving on campus for the Yellow Jackets, Collins has made waves in overhauling the Georgia Tech program, converting the team from an option offense to a pro-style spread offense while also adding three of the highest-ranked recruiting classes in program history. Prior to becoming a head coach in the NCAA, Collins spent time as defensive coordinator for the likes of Florida, Mississippi State and Florida International across the seven-year stretch of 2010-16. Collins also had experience within the Georgia Tech program prior to his hiring as head coach in 2019, serving as a graduate assistant and tight ends coach for the team from 1999-2001 and later returning in 2006 as director of player personnel.

YELLOW JACKETS SCOUTING REPORT
Georgia Tech enters their matchup with the Rebels with a record of 1-1 on the year, as the Yellow Jackets were able to come away with a 35-17 victory over Western Carolina last weekend to get their first tally in the win column for 2022. Coming off of a 3-9 season in 2021, including going 2-6 in conference play, the Yellow Jackets will rely heavily upon the team’s returning talent to help lead the team to success in 2022. The team’s offense is headlined by junior running back Dontae Smith, who comes off of a 2021 season that ended with him earning a Second-Team All-ACC nod from Pro Football Focus serving as a rotational back in the team’s offense. Alongside Smith will be sophomore quarterback Jeff Sims, who brings back his dual-threat capabilities to the Yellow Jacket backfield for a second season after appearing in seven games in 2021. Georgia Tech’s defense also includes a pair of playmakers within the linebacking core, including Third-Team All-ACC linebacker (PFF) Charlie Thomas as well as senior Ayinde Eley, who ended his 2021 season with 90 total tackles for the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech’s defense is rounded out with defensive lineman Keion White, who currently leads the team in sacks (3) in 2022. White entered the 2022 season as a member of the Reese’s Senior Bowl Watch List, with Thomas earning a spot on the list as well.

OLE MISS IN SEPTEMBER
• Ole Miss is 159-92-7 (.630 winning pct.) all-time during the month of September after vacated wins.
• The Rebels are 112-41-6 (.723 winning pct.) all-time versus non-conference opponents during the month.

GEORGIA REBELS
The Ole Miss roster features 16 players who hail from Georgia: OL Flip Carswell (Tennille),S Nick Cull (Donalsonville), K Jonathan Cruz (Cartersville), OL Hamilton Hall (Atlanta),DE JJ Hawkins (Lawrenceville), DE Jared Ivey (Suwanee), OL Jeremy James (Cumming),TE Zach Johansen (Suwanee), OL Reece McIntyre (Buford),OL Cedrick Nicely (Gainesville), P Charlie Pollock (Marietta), S Otis Reese (Leesburg),WR Dayton Wade (Atlanta), CB Demarko Williams (Atlanta), CB Demarko Williams (Atlanta), LB Jaron Willis (Leesburg).

OLE MISS-GEORGIA TECH SERIES HISTORY
• Ole Miss and Georgia Tech are meeting for the fifth time, with the series tied at 2-2.
• Three of the four contests between the Rebels and Yellow Jackets have been in bowl games.
• Georgia Tech won the lone non-neutral game between the two teams in 1946, 24-7 (Grant Field).
• Ole Miss has won the last two meetings in the series.
• This game marks the first game in a home-and-home series with the Yellow Jackets … The Rebels will host Georgia Tech next year in 2023.

TACKLIN’ FUEL
TCU transfer Khari Coleman has registered 6.5 tackles for loss through the first two games on the season and ranks No. 12 in FBS in total sacks (2.5). With his 5.0 TFL in the season opener vs. Troy, Coleman became just the third Rebel since 1999 to tally five or more tackles for loss in a single game. Mark Robinson registered 5.0 TFL last season and Kendrick Clancy had 6.0 in 1999. Coleman earned Freshman All-America accolades in 2020 after a stellar freshman campaign for the Horned Frogs. Coleman ranked second in the Big 12 and seventh nationally with 15.0 tackles for loss as a true freshman on his way to being named the Big 12 Co-Defensive Freshman of the Year. The 10.0 tackles for loss were the most by any SEC team in their season opener and are the most in an Ole Miss opening game since 2014.

DYNAMIC DUO
The Rebels rank second in the SEC and No. 11 in FBS in rushing offense (249 ypg) and are lead by a bevy of new faces carrying the rock. True Freshman Quinshon Judkins leads the Ole Miss rushing attack. The Pike Road, Alabama, native has tallied 191 rushing yards on 24 carries through two collegiate games. Judkins ranks second in the SEC and No. 7 in the FBS with 7.96 yards per carry. Zach Evans, a running back transfer from TCU, has registered 31 carries for 183 yards and one TD. The duo are the only pair of teammates in the country averaging 90-plus yards rushing per game.

PORTAL MANIA
Looking to replace 33 letterwinners, including 14 total starters, Kiffin and the Rebels turned to the transfer portal to help strengthen its roster for 2022. The Rebels brought in a total of 28 transfers, including 24 portal transfers that ranked No. 2 according to 247Sports. USC transfer QB Jaxson Dart was rated the No. 3 overall transfer and started three games in 2021 for the Trojans. RB Zach Evans was also ranked in the top 10 in 247Sports’ transfer rankings. Evans was ranked as the No. 2 running back and No. 8 overall player in the transfer portal. TE Michael Trigg was the third Rebel to be ranked as a top 20 transfer, rated as the No. 1 tight end and No. 19 overall player. 56 of the 125 players (45 percent) on the Rebel roster are newcomers and are in their first season at Ole Miss.

THE BIG MEN UP FRONT
Arguably one of the deepest positions for the Rebels in 2022 is the offensive line. Preseason All-America selection Nick Broeker anchors a line for an Ole Miss offense that finished sixth in the FBS last season in total offense. Broeker played in every single snap for the Rebels and has started 23 straight games. Jeremy James and Caleb Warren also both return after starting 13 and 11 games respectively last season. Eli Acker, redshirt freshman Jayden Williams and WKU transfer Mason BrooksHamilton HallCedric Melton and Reece McIntyre will all see time on the experienced o-line for the Rebels.

A BIG, DYNAMIC TARGET
One of Ole Miss’ biggest additions through the transfer portal was Michael Trigg. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound tight end transfer from USC had a career-day Saturday vs. Central Arkansas. Trigg tied a school record with three receiving touchdowns vs. the Bears. He became the 11th Rebel and just the second tight end to haul in three TD receptions. Trigg ranks second in the SEC, ninth nationally in receiving TDs. Among tight ends, Trigg leads the SEC and is tied for the national lead in TD receptions.

GETTING DEFENSIVE
Dating back to last season’s game against Liberty, Ole Miss has held seven straight opponents to 21 or fewer points. It is the longest active streak among Power 5 teams and the longest streak by any Ole Miss team since a streak of seven straight games in 2014. The Ole Miss defense leads the SEC and ranks eighth nationally with six takeaways through two games this year. In their season opener, the Rebel defense held Troy to 60 yards rushing on 33 attempts. It was the fewest rushing yards by an Ole Miss opponent since the 2020 Egg Bowl in which the Rebels gave up only 39 yards. Ole Miss has allowed just 13 total points through the first two games of 2022, the fewest allowed to start a season by a Rebel squad since 1991 (three points).

MANY OPTIONS
One of the most exciting factors of the talent on the Ole Miss roster would be the depth at the receiver position. Ole Miss came into the year having to replace its top four reception leaders from a season ago. Even with so many new names added to the receiver roster, the relationships between the athletes have not let competition get in the middle of the purpose of the team: to win. Veteran Jonathan Mingo has started 26 games in his career and hauled in 22 catches for 346 yards and three TDs in 2021 after battling a foot injury early in the season. Transfers Jaylon RobinsonMalik Heath and Jordan Watkins all bring valuable collegiate experience that will continue to help the Rebel offense.

KD HILL RECEIVES CHUCKY MULLINS COURAGE AWARD, WILL WEAR NO. 38
Ole Miss DT KD Hill was recently named the winner of the 2022 Chucky Mullins Courage Award. The award, sponsored by Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, honors the late Chucky Mullins, who had his Ole Miss career come to an end during the 1989 Homecoming game against Vanderbilt when he was paralyzed after making a tackle. After returning to his studies at Ole Miss, Mullins passed away May 6, 1991. A native of Eufaula, Alabama, Hill becomes the 32nd recipient in the 33-year history of the award. Hill will wear Mullins’ No. 38 number throughout the 2022 season. Hill has appeared in 35 career games for the Rebels, including 11 starts at nose tackle last season. The two-year starter for the Rebels registered 24 total tackles on the season in 2021, including two tackles for loss.

NEW FACES IN THE BACKFIELD
The Rebel running back position continues to look much different for the Rebels in 2022 as they had to replace some of the best to ever carry the football at Ole Miss. Both Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner have moved on to the professional game, while the No. 3 back, Henry Parrish Jr., is now at Miami. The trio combined for 1,968 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground a year ago. Despite the losses, the Rebels have plenty of viable candidates to fill the void. TCU transfer Zach Evans seems set for the lead role in the room after running with the ones for the majority of camp. After that, the Rebel coaches will have some decisions to make with several talented runners and only one football to share between them. Ulysses Bentley IV brings more veteran experience to the room after transferring from SMU. True freshman Quinshon Judkins has impressed in fall campus and brings a powerful running attack to the field for the Rebels. Kentrel Bullock, the lone returning scholarship running back remaining from 2021, will also play an important role in the Ole Miss running game.

HEAVY HITTER
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.

INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR
Ole Miss has four players on its roster from outside the U.S., including two Canadian players (Jaden Dicks and Tavius Robinson). Offensive lineman Tobias Braun (Germany) and punter Fraser Masin (Australia) round out the Rebels who add a little international flavor. Robinson appeared in 11 games last season for the Rebels and registered 28 total tackles, including 3.5 sacks.

A FRESH START
Eleven Rebels have made their first career starts at some point for Ole Miss this season: QB Luke Altmyer, LB Troy Brown, QB Jaxson Dart, RB Zach Evans, WR Malik Heath, CB Davison Igbinosun, WR Jaylon Robinson, S Ladarius Tennison, TE Michael Trigg, WR Jayden Williams, S Isheem Young. Prior to Ole Miss, Brown had 30 starts at Central Michigan, Young 21 at Iowa State, Evans eight at TCU, Heath nine at Mississippi State, Robinson six at UCF, Dart three starts at USC.

NEW REBS HIT THE FIELD
A total of 37 different Rebels have made their debut for Ole Miss in 2022: LB Tyler Banks (first career), RB Ulysses Bentley IV, LB Lex Boucvalt, OL Mason Brooks, LB Troy Brown, LB Khari Coleman, K Jonathan Cruz, QB Jaxson Dart, RB Zach Evans, DT Zxavian Harris (first career), DE JJ Hawkins, TE Kyirin Heath, WR Malik Heath, LB Reginald Hughes, CB Davison Igbinosun (first career), DE Jared Ivey, S Dashaun Jerkins, RB Quinshon Judkins (first career), WR Jalen Knox, LB Danny Lockhart Jr., P Fraser Masin (first career), OL Cedrick Nicely, DT JJ Pegues (first career), OL Micah Pettus (first career), LB John Porchivina (first career), WR Jaylon Robinson, CB Jarell Stinson (first career), S Ladarius Tennison, TE Michael Trigg, WR Dayton Wade, WR Jordan Watkins, LB Trip White, CB Demarko Williams (first career), OL Jayden Williams (first career), LB Jaron Willis, RB Isheem Young.

KIFFIN’S WEEKLY RADIO SHOW ON THURSDAYS
RebTalk, the official weekly radio show of Ole Miss Athletics, will broadcast each Thursday this fall at Bouré in downtown Oxford from 6-7 p.m. The show, which is hosted by the “Voice of the Rebels” David Kellum and includes special guests, will air live on the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network. Ole Miss Football head coach Lane Kiffin and select players will join the broadcast each Thursday throughout the season.

DEGREES IN HAND
Earning a degree from the University of Mississippi is one of the top priorities for Ole Miss student-athletes. Eight current Rebels have already accomplished that goal with eligibility remaining this fall: Jonathan Cruz (Psychology), Hamilton Hall (Integrated Marketing Communications), KD Hill (Exercise Science), Malik Heath (Interdisciplinary Studies), Dashaun Jerkins (Medicine Health & Society), Amani Johnson (Accountancy), Jaylon Robinson (Human Communications), Isaiah Woullard (Social Work).