No. 2: Lane Kiffin and the Ole Miss Rebels always seem to find ways to score.
Our rivals to the north come in at the #2 spot on the list. Love him or hate him, Lane Kiffin is one of the best play callers in the nation. He’s as good as anyone at maximizing the players available to him and scheming guys wide open. His 2022 offense put up 33.5 points per game, ranked 19th in Offensive SP+, and produced the top non-triple option rushing attack in the nation at over 256 yards per game.
That run game was headlined by Quinshon Judkins. As a true freshman, Judkins led the SEC with 1567 yards and 16 TDs. He enters the 2023 season as an All-American candidate and is the centerpiece of the Rebels’ offense. Former SMU transfer Ulysses Bentley IV will serve as Judkins’ compliment at RB.
Kiffin made waves in the portal with the addition of two high profile QB transfers in 4-year Oklahoma State starter Spencer Sanders and highly-ranked freshman Walker Howard out of LSU. This was somewhat controversial with Jaxson Dart returning after a solid campaign in 2022, but Kiffin wanted to create competition. That competition looks to have brought out the best in Dart in the spring, as he’s likely to hold on to the starting job this year.
Dart is another strong runner in the Rebel backfield, rushing for 614 yards last season. He was effective as a passer when working off of Kiffin’s RPO and play-action concepts that are largely designed to free up one receiver and simplify reads for the QB. But when asked to execute true drop-back passes in long yardage situations where defenses aren’t fearful of the run, he struggled. He was 10th in the SEC in completion percentage amongst starters, and only South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler threw more interceptions.
For the Ole Miss offense to take the next step, Dart will need to become more consistent throwing when defenses expect it. A dominant run game is great, but if you want to maximize your ability to score points, a consistent drop-back passing game is needed. Of course to achieve that, you also need talented receivers. Ole Miss’ top two pass catchers from 2022, Malik Heath and Jonathan Mingo, are both gone. They accounted for 46% of the Rebels’ catches, 59% of their receiving yards, and 45% of their receiving TDs. That’s a lot of lost production.
To replace them, Ole Miss went to the portal. Former UTSA WR Zakhari Franklin comes in after catching 94 passes 1136 yards and 15 TDs for the Roadrunners last year. Another transfer from the C-USA, Louisiana Tech’s Tre Harris had 65 catches for 935 yards and 10 TDs. Memphis TE Caden Prieskorn, who had 602 yards and 7 TDs, also made the move to Oxford. Don’t let their G5 status fool you. These guys are talented and are strong additions to the Ole Miss receiving corps.
4/5 starters return along a good offensive line, though their top player from 2022, Nick Broeker, is gone. The Rebels were solid both in run blocking and pass protection, though having a talent like Quinshon Judkins running the ball and Dart evading pressure masked some issues. Still, if they can adequately replace Broeker, this group can be a strength.
Ole Miss is going to score and score a lot in 2023. They’ll be able to run the ball as well as anyone, and Kiffin’s scheme will create opportunities for explosive plays downfield. If Dart improves as a passer and the transfer WRs step up, they could be even more dangerous. But if they haven’t, we saw what the Bulldog defense did to them in the Egg Bowl.