Lane Kiffin discusses COVID-19 postponements, looks ahead to South Carolina
OXFORD, Miss. — Over half of the Southeastern Conference schedule has been postponed this week due to complications from the COVID-19 outbreak. LSU postponed its game with top-ranked Alabama, while Missouri-Georgia, Auburn-Mississippi State and Texas A&M-Tennessee have also been wiped off this weekend’s slate.
That leaves South Carolina at Ole Miss, Vanderbilt at Kentucky and Arkansas at Florida as the only games left this week.
One-fifth of ranked teams will have their games postponed this weekend as Ohio State joins the four ranked SEC teams in having games erased.
Ole Miss is coming off a bye week and will take on South Carolina at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m., as the Rebels have not been hit as hard with the virus as other teams in the conference.
“We have a couple (of positive cases); I think we have three,” Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said Wednesday.
“So, that’s probably not all bad compared to a lot of people. We tested Monday and Tuesday and somehow had no positive tests, which is great, because I was very concerned with everybody gone for the (bye) weekend, you know, not being around.”
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin
The Rebels did have some absences to COVID-19 earlier in the year, including defensive starters Tariqious Tisdale and Jakorey Hawkins who missed two games due to contact-tracing protocols. Both players were able to return in the victory over Vanderbilt two weeks ago.
While teams that are on hot streaks, like Alabama, want to continue rolling, other teams have seen their seasons slip away and might not be too broken-hearted over an extra open date. Either way, the sudden halt in play could be seen as an inevitability.
“This is probably more what maybe was expected to happen and and really hadn’t that much (up until now), because kids probably did better than maybe we give them credit for in in handling this (virus),” Kiffin suggested.
Kiffin also discussed the thought that perhaps some schools’ decisions to postpone games might be due to a combination of things — positive COVID tests, injuries, and close-contact tracing — and not solely because of COVID.
“I mean, it’s later in the year, so I initially thought it (cancellations) had to do with COVID, with a certain amount of players and positionally,” Kiffin said.
“But I guess it doesn’t just have to do with COVID. So, if guys are injured, that counts the same, I guess, which I didn’t know that initially. I thought it was going to be ‘OK, Hey COVID’, because everybody has injuries throughout the year. But I guess the injuries are counting in those numbers — in those mandatory numbers — that people can get out of playing. So, I don’t know, maybe some people don’t want to play. Their season is not going good. So, who knows?”
Kiffin on if Rebels are near COVID threshold to not play: "I haven't looked at numbers that way. I want to play. I think it's more if you don't want to play that you look at the numbers. We're excited to play."
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) November 11, 2020
League guidelines on postponements
The mandatory guidelines to which Kiffin refers were announced by the league office in September. They are as follows:
To play a football game, a minimum threshold of at least 53 scholarship players need to be available to participate and the following minimum number of position scholarship players available to begin a game: seven (7) offensive linemen (which includes one center), one (1) quarterback and four (4) defensive linemen.
It is worth noting the impacted institution has the option to play the game with fewer than the 53 scholarship players or fewer than the minimum number of position players listed above if it elects to do so. Otherwise, upon approval by the Commissioner, the game would be rescheduled or declared a no contest.
Rebels ready to play
The Rebels (2-4) certainly want to play this week. After the win at Vandy and a bye week, Ole Miss is itching to get back on the field against South Carolina. The Gamecocks are coming off a 48-3 loss to Texas A&M last week.
Along with the loss to the Aggies, South Carolina is also having issues at quarterback causing Ole Miss to prepare for two players with decidedly different skill sets. It is up in the air whether Collin Hill or Ryan Hilinski will get the starting assignment for the Gamecocks.
“I think, you know, up and down throughout the year,” Kiffin said when asked to describe the play of the South Carolina QBs.
“The Colorado State kid (Hill) played really well at times and struggled here as of late,” Kiffin said. “So, you know, these guys can run the ball really well. I remember watching the other side of the ball, watching them when we were getting ready for Vanderbilt. And they did a great job running the ball that day. So, any time a team can run the ball well, especially we’ve not been good at stopping it, you know, we’re going to need to do that regardless of who’s handing it off,” Kiffin noted.
“And the style that (South Carolina coach) Will (Muschamp) plays… I think they’ve had a lot of games here lately and (have been in the) 50s and 60s in the play counts, which I think is how he likes it—kind of old school. We’ll probably see a lot of that, especially with us being a tempo offense. So, you know, we’ve got to get off the field.”
The game is scheduled to be broadcast on the SEC Network.