Transfer Portal Players Bringing Experience, Excitement to Ole Miss Football
OXFORD, Miss. – The transfer portal giveth, the transfer portal taketh away. But in the case of Ole Miss, head coach Lane Kiffin has proven to be quite skilled at working the relatively new concept in college football.
Although the Rebels lost players such as John Rhys Plumlee, Henry Parrish and MoMo Sonogo to other schools, Coach Kiffin has restocked the Ole Miss cupboard well. His effort earned Ole Miss the No. 1 spot in the 247Sports Transfer Portal rankings.
Jaxson Dart, Michael Trigg, Zach Evans, Mason Brooks, Troy Brown, J.J. Pegues, Ulysses Bentley IV, and Ladarius Tennison are just some of the players who have joined the Rebels for spring drills. The additions have made this spring practice a new experience for Kiffin, his staff and his players.
“It’s a bit different because (there are) so many new guys,” Kiffin said. “It’s almost like a (National Football League) training camp feel where normally in spring you just have your returning guys you’re working with. So that’s pretty exciting to have so many new guys that you get to coach up and figure out roles for them.”
Early in the spring sessions, many of the players have found roles for the Rebels. That fact did not catch Kiffin by surprise.
“I wouldn’t really say we didn’t expect them to because we have high expectations for guys,” Kiffin said.
“The portal guys are not a hit and miss like high school guys, because you’re seeing them play college football. We didn’t really take a lot of guys who were at a major place but weren’t playing. That’s more of a wild card because you’re getting them and you haven’t really seen film. Most of these guys played.”
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin on transfer portal additions
Michael Trigg shines
One player who has impressed is tight end Michael Trigg. The USC transfer had an impressive season with the Trojans during his true freshman campaign.
In just six games, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Tampa native caught seven passes for 109 yards – a 15.57 yard average – and a touchdown.
“I don’t like telling this because everybody says this, but probably (people have) told him this forever, I mean his potential is unbelievable,” Kiffin said.
“You know his catching radius and balance and body control, they just don’t make many like that in the world. He’s done great things already and it is crazy. Like I told the staff because we just kind of think of (the) portal as free agency, like those are the older ones, this guy is in his second semester of college, which is crazy to think about when you see his skill set, so we’re obviously excited about him.”
Coach Kiffin on Michael Trigg
Similarities to the NFL
A former head coach for the Oakland Raiders, Kiffin has been in a system where players can easily move from team to team. That experience has given him a unique perspective on the transfer portal.
“I know I equate things to professional sports a lot, the NFL, because that is what we are now in all areas,” Kiffin said.
“It’s professional sports so to me it’s no different than having mini-camps, looking at everybody, and then you see you have a few guys that you see right before training camp that are still free agents out there that, usually veteran guys, that NFL said, ‘okay, well we’re worried about this spot, you know, and so we go and sign somebody up there, so definitely.’”
So, is Kiffin done with the transfer portal in regard to the 2022 Rebels? Recent history says no. Last season, starting center Orlando Umana transferred to Ole Miss just prior to the opening of fall camp and offensive lineman Jordan Rhodes joined the team after fall practice began.
The possibility of filling a need for the team is always on Kiffin’s mind.
“I do that every day, but I try to slow up and wait for all the practices,” Kiffin said. “Because you know, that’s better to have more input and not try to fix problems right now and so try to be patient with that.”
Ole Miss returns to the practice field Thursday for a closed practice followed by media interviews.
The Rebels will once again hold an open practice at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday, April 2, April 9 and April 16. Fans should park in the Pavilion garage and enter through gate 33 in the southwest corner. Gates will open at 10:45 a.m. and seating will be available in the south grandstand.
Spring practice concludes April 23 with the Grove Bowl in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)
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.