Coach Kiffin reports Rebels’ offense practicing this week without 9 of 11 opening-day starters
OXFORD, Miss. — It’s hard to know just who we will see when the Ole Miss offense takes the field Saturday against Liberty.
Speaking on this Wednesday’s SEC coaches teleconference, head coach Lane Kiffin said the Rebels have practiced this week without nine players on offense who started in the season’s opening game.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Kiffin said. “It does present a good challenge for us in game planning and calling plays during games.”
Although Coach Kiffin is tight-lipped when it comes to discussing players’ injuries, as is his policy, we do know at least some info about those who have been unable to play or who have not been at full-speed.
Right guard Ben Brown (bicep) is out for the season. Wide receivers Jonathan Mingo (foot) and Braylon Sanders (shoulder, lower body) have been unable to play, although Sanders was dressed out last week at Auburn but did not participate.
Fellow receiver Dontario Drummond was also forced to leave the game against Auburn due to injury (lower body) and his status is not known for this weekend.
Tight end Chase Rogers has also missed several weeks (foot), while offensive linemen Orlando Umana (hand) and Caleb Warren (foot) have been playing banged up. Running back Jerrion Ealy missed time due to concussion protocol.
Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral, who was injured at Tennessee (ankle), played for most of the Auburn game; however, he was hobbled and forced to leave the game against the Tigers for a few plays to have his ankle x-rayed. While we do not know if the Rebels’ Heisman-candidate QB will play against Liberty, we can say he’s been limited in practice this week.
“We looked around and practiced with two of the 11 starters that started the opener, a number of which are out for a while or the season. That is very strange on one side of the ball. It is what it is. We’ve got to overcome those challenges and find a way to win.”
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin
With so many starters unable to practice or play, Coach Kiffin and his staff are adjusting the Rebels’ offense in hopes of simplifying it, at least to some extent, so that younger players are better able to step in and contribute.
“Obviously, two of 11 starters is just unheard of,” Kiffin explained.
“You don’t usually lose nine starters from season to season in the off-season. You usually return more starters than that. We’re going to simplify things, try to play some younger players, because obviously three points in the second half isn’t going to get it done last week. We didn’t do a good job. We were very overmatched at a number of spots and we’ve got to find a way to overcome that. That’s what coaching is.”
Kiffin was asked how many of the aforementioned nine players could possibly “play through the pain” against Liberty, and he surmised possibly two or three. However, he also explained that a player being cleared to play involves a number of factors, including medical approval and the player’s pain tolerance.
He described how his philosophy has changed a bit over the years.
“Probably when I was younger, I would have pushed guys a little more to play. Where now, especially with guys like Braylon (Sanders) that have a very bright NFL future, (we) err on the side of them being safer. Which is probably unique in college football. I just feel I owe it to the players that way.“
The No. 15 Rebels (6-2, 3-2 SEC) host Liberty on Saturday. The game will kick off at 11:00 a.m. and will be televised on SEC Network.
Evelyn has covered sports for over two decades, beginning her journalism career as a sports writer for a newspaper in Austin, Texas. She attended Texas A&M and majored in English. Evelyn’s love for Ole Miss began when her daughter Katie attended the university on a volleyball scholarship. Evelyn created the Rebel Walk in 2013 and has served as publisher and managing editor since its inception.