OXFORD, Miss. — Any college football coach will tell you the 2020 season has been one filled with uncertainty. And given that the NCAA has mandated players on the 2020 roster be granted an extra year of eligibility, one must consider the 2021 teams aren’t set, either.
So, for members of the Ole Miss senior class looking ahead to their last home game of the year, it might not necessarily be the last game they will ever play at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
In fact, when the upperclassmen are recognized in the Senior Day ceremony prior to the Rebels taking on Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl Nov. 28, Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin is not sure exactly how many players will be participating in that time-honored tradition.
Kiffin has not counted the number of roses that will be needed for players to present their mothers in the pregame ceremony.
“I haven’t done that yet. I’ve had our coaches do that just to kind of get a feel number-wise for Senior Day,” Kiffin said of assessing how many seniors will opt to return next season.
“So, we’ll ask them. If they know they’re coming back for sure, then they don’t need to go (on the field for Senior Day festivities). If they know they’re going for sure, they need to go out there. And then if they’re in between, they probably should go out. So, I don’t know those numbers.”
Head coach Lane Kiffin on players participating in Senior Day recognition
At the moment, two players, offensive lineman Royce Newman and tight end Kenny Yeboah, should be slated to participate in the Senior Day ceremony.
We know that because both players have accepted invitations to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl which will be the last game of their college careers.
Senior wide receiver Braylon Sanders, who notched a career day last Saturday in the Rebels’ 59-42 victory over South Carolina, has not yet made a decision as to whether he will return next season. The Hogansville, Ga., native caught four passes for 141 yards against the Gamecocks.
“Right now, my focus is just winning…winning out the rest of the year and just trying to be better each and every week,” Sanders said.
“…Right now I really haven’t thought much about it. My focus right now is just finishing out the season…and getting better each and every week. When that decision time comes, it will be a tough one for sure, but I always make the right one.“
Senior WR Braylon Sanders on whether or not he will return next season
In addition to the seniors on the roster, there are also some other Rebels who are draft eligible and might choose not to return. After the productive season he has had, junior wide receiver Elijah Moore could not be faulted if he declares for the NFL Draft.
However, another player who will be eligible to be drafted, redshirt sophomore quarterback Matt Corral, seems to relish his Ole Miss experience and it seems more likely than not he will return next season.
“Man, it just feels good being able to play with my brothers to the side of me and you know that’s what we’ve always been preaching on is playing as a team, playing for the dude right next to you….” Corral said on an episode of “Marty and McGee” on the SEC Network this week.
“Because in times like these we really don’t know if we’re going to get another chance because of COVID. Like that last game could really be our last game this season.”
Ole Miss QB Matt Corral
Remaining schedule and bowl game opportunity
The senior class does not know when that last game will be this season. Saturday’s game at Texas A&M has been postponed and hopefully will be rescheduled, leaving just Mississippi State and LSU remaining on the regular-season schedule.
Both State and the Tigers have already had games postponed this season due to COVID-19.
Beyond that, the only other opportunity for an extra game would be during bowl season. Ole Miss athletic director Keith Carter is already expecting a trip to a postseason game.
“We anticipate going to a bowl,” Carter said.
“We’re planning to go to a bowl. That’s what we want to do. We want to continue to allow our young people opportunities to play and compete. Obviously, we’d love to win a couple of more games and bolster that resume, but we’ve got a committee right now that’s already planning to go to a bowl. That’s our hope.“
Ole Miss AD Keith Carter
Carter is not just wishing upon a star. Some media outlets have predicted the Rebels participating in the Las Vegas Bowl, the Gasparilla Bowl or the Gator Bowl at this point of the schedule.
Should the Rebels head to the bowl season, the question for Kiffin remains: how many players from his inaugural team will return for a second year in Oxford?
“You know, we’ll figure that out right after the season,” Kiffin said. “But, I think what you’re going to see is some that are in the middle, maybe test waters with transferring and all that. And so, who knows? And then I heard maybe now they’re not going to be able to do one-time (transfer) until later on….not going to be able to do that in December or January. So, I’m not sure where that is.”
The Egg Bowl is slated to kick off at 3 p.m. on the SEC Network.