Matt Corral credits his coaches for offensive success last season, growth at quarterback
HOOVER, Ala. — In last year’s 2020 season, there were many uncertainties due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin had a perfect 20/20 vision of how good the Rebel offense could be.
Ole Miss led the Southeastern Conference with 555.5 yards of total offense per game. Quarterback Matt Corral led the league in total offense with 384.9 yards per contest.
Heading into Corral’s second season in the offense led by Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, could the Rebels’ offense be even better in 2021? With a second year of tutelage under the offensive coaches, Corral could even surpass his video-game-like numbers from last year.
“I think that, again, having a spring finally with him, he’s never had a second year of a system, I think has been good for him,” Kiffin said at SEC Media Days Tuesday.
Corral gives the credit for his success last season to his coaches.
“It is Lane, and it is — it’s a combination of everybody, Coach Lebby, Coach Kiffin, they’ve all done a great job of forming me into this quarterback ultimately, not only as a quarterback, but a better person off the field,” Corral said at the Media Days event.
“They changed my whole thought process, man. They changed my whole thought process in how I look at a defense and how I just approach the game and the way I get ready for a game. It’s something different that I didn’t do two years ago when I was a freshman. Now it’s become habit.”
Matt Corral on Lane Kiffin and Jeff Lebby
Ironically, it was Corral’s toughest game of the 2020 campaign that ultimately proved to him he had the confidence of the coaching staff. After throwing six interceptions in a 33-21 loss at Arkansas, Corral remained in the game.
Matt Corral on Ark game: "I'm not one for excuses. That game was fully my fault. I take full responsibility for that. I had not experienced drop 8 before. Those mistakes were fixable."
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) July 20, 2021
“As for the confidence deal, Coach Kiffin and Lebby, they kept me in that game for a reason,” Corral said to reporters gathered in the main room in Hoover.
“They didn’t yank me. They made sure that I was the guy. They made sure that I knew that I was the guy, and I think….that spoke volumes to me. That spoke volumes to the team. That gave me the confidence in myself that I could bounce back from it.”
How Coach Kiffin approached Corral after that game was the quintessential show of support from coach to player.
“Kiffin brought me into the room after that game, and he told me that there’s a reason that he didn’t pull me. He said he believed in me. He said, I believe what you can do. I believe in your ability. You’re our guy moving forward. Like there’s no issue with me. We’re going to get it fixed. So just having that relationship with him helped a lot.”
Matt Corral on what Kiffin said to him after the Arkansas game
As much as Corral appreciated the vote of confidence from his coach, Kiffin was impressed at the maturity Corral displayed after that game.
“I think it says a lot about him that he was able to recover from that (loss at Arkansas),” Kiffin said. “I get asked all the time about ‘why didn’t we pull him?’ I’ve just always believed that you’re really slow to do that because you get into pulling the quarterbacks, and back and forth, and their confidence is lost. It’s not like another position. When you’re the leader of it and you’ve got to take the ball every single snap, if your confidence is rattled and floating different guys in there. So, I’m glad we stayed with him. He learned a lot from it,” the Rebels’ head coach added.
‘Go back to work and be humble’
Football is frequently a game of overcoming adversity. Kiffin described how the Arkansas game was a learning experience.
“Sometimes you’ve got to have obstacles,” he began. “I’ve referenced obstacles in the way. That’s as good as it gets right there. Throw the ball to the other team six times, that’s a pretty good obstacle. So, he learned a lot from that, and that was coming off an Alabama game seven days before of playing extremely well. So, it’s a lesson for all of our players. You’ve got to go back to work and be humble.”
Corral’s teammates were impressed with him as well.
“Matt is one of the hardest workers on the team, and just with Coach Kiffin sticking with him after that Arkansas game, it didn’t shock any of us because we knew Matt was our guy; he’s our leader,” defensive back Jaylon Jones said.
“In the spring, all I’ve been seeing, Matt, every day he’s looking to get better. He is getting better. This year, I think he’s going to put up way more numbers than he has before just because of his mental side of it. You can tell that he’s noticing things before the ball snaps. He’s getting guys aligned. He’s really becoming a general more than he was before.”
Jaylon Jones on Matt Corral
Corral and the Rebels’ first chance to impress comes Labor Day night against Louisville in the Georgia Dome.
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.