When the Lane Train first rolled into Oxford, the Rebels were putting the finishing touches on a 4-8 finish to the 2019 season. The season was derailed by a mediocre offense, one that mustered just 26.58 ppg and 445 ypg. In Kiffin’s first full season at Ole Miss the offense exploded for 39.2 ppg and 555.5 ypg.
Kiffin’s arrival on campus and the offensive explosion is no coincidence. Kiffin has been heralded as an offensive genius ever since his stint as the head coach at USC. While there, he mentored players like Matt Barkley and Marquise Lee, leading them to immense success. He followed this up with three years as Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator, where he helped QBs Jalen Hurts and Jake Coker have great success, as Kiffin saw the Tide make two CFP runs including a national championship.
Heading into 2023, Kiffin has a decision to make with three viable options fighting for QB1. The first is Kiffin’s starter from the 2022 season, Jaxson Dart. Dart, the junior transfer from USC threw for 2,974 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. Dart has a strong arm that allows him to make throws all over the field, however that can sometimes get him into trouble which was showcased by his 11 interceptions last year. Dart is great on the move, and Kiffin was able to utilize that to his advantage on numerous occasions last season. If Dart wants to keep his starting spot, he will need to be able to continue to improvise, while also making smart choices with the ball.
Next, the most experienced of all the candidates for the job, Spencer Sanders. Sanders has had great success in his four years at Oklahoma State, leading the Cowboys to a 30-11 record during his time there. He threw for 9,553 yards and 67 touchdowns, while also firing 40 interceptions in his four years. Sanders’ impact on the ground cannot be ignored, as he added 1956 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground in his time as the Cowboys signal caller. Sanders tends to struggle with getting past his first read, and occasionally rushes his throws leading to mistakes. If Sanders can prove to Kiffin that he can limit the mistakes, he has a chance to overtake Jaxson Dart as the Rebs starter.
Finally, the underdog in the race, Walker Howard. The transfer from LSU is a redshirt freshman who saw no time last year, other than a few snaps at the end of the Tigers bowl game. Howard is ultra-talented, with a rocket for an arm and legs that will allow him to excel in Kiffin’s run-heavy system. Howard’s inexperience will likely not allow him to receive the QB1 job in the offseason, however if he can prove to Kiffin that he is ready, Howard would have the chance to lead an electric offense in Oxford.
With the season right around the corner and a QB1 yet to be named, Kiffin has a decision to make. Coach Kiffin has made it clear that he would prefer to have the decision made before the season starts. However, with the season looming and the immense talent Kiffin has in his quarterback room, it will be an extremely tough decision to make.