The Portal Games: Some players to watch when the transfer portal opens Monday
“Darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.” – Taylor Swift
OXFORD, Miss. — What a whirlwind few weeks it has been for Ole Miss fans. Rebels, enjoy the next 24 hours of calmness because December and all its recruiting fun is on the horizon, and that means anything can happen.
Fortunately for Ole Miss fans, chess-master Lane Kiffin knows how to make nightmares for others and daydreams for Rebels when it comes to winning on the recruiting trail.
Are you ready?
Over the last two seasons, we have seen just what the right fit of transfer and high school talent has brought to Ole Miss. And on Monday, December 5th, the transfer portal officially opens for business.
This past August, 2022, new portal rules were adopted with “windows” created during which players may transfer.
Now, there are 60 days per year for athletes to enter the portal and maintain immediate eligibility for first-time transfers. For fall sports like football, the period is split into two periods. The first, a 45-day period, will start the day after championship selections are made. This year, that date is December 5th.
A second window will be instituted from May 1-15 so players can enter the transfer portal after spring camp.
So fasten your seatbelt as the transfer portal begins to take off again. And, with early signing day for high school prospective student athletes set for December 21-23, it’s sure to be a month to remember.
Will we see Coach Kiffin and staff celebrating a “Merry Flipmas,” with athletes deciding to spurn a prior commitment and come to the ‘Sip? I wouldn’t bet against that.
Ole Miss will look to continue reloading and building depth, especially key positions such as defensive line, linebackers, offensive linemen and overall athletes. After taking a look at some of the outstanding talent in the portal, we believe Coach Kiffin could very well reclaim his “Portal King” title.
Who could the Rebs go after? Here are some potential names to know heading into Monday.
The heavy hitters
Plenty of top talent will hit the portal, especially at the running back position.
LJ Johnson, running back, Texas A&M
A native of Cypress (Cy-Fair High School), LJ Johnson joined the 12th Man as a member of the 2021 recruiting class. As a freshman, the 5-10, 210-pound runner saw action in four games, recording 21 carries for 76 yards. This past season, Johnson finished with 10 carries for 39 yards and scored two touchdowns.
The former four-star back will be a hot commodity and you can bet schools are already lining up to get his attention. Coming out of high school, Johnson was the No. 46 overall prospect in the 2021 recruiting cycle. He has exceptional quickness and the potential to be an extremely productive playmaker in the right setting.
During his time at Cy-Fair, he was productive and competitive in one of the toughest 6-A districts in Texas.
Damien George, OL, Alabama
The Rebels are always looking for some powerful big guys upfront. Could a player like offensive lineman Damien George be the answer for the Rebs?
George may not have seen a ton of action this season, but he has a ton of potential and could make an instant impact upfront.
The 6-foot-6, 330-pounder saw action in 12 games in 2021, making three starts as right tackle against Auburn, Arkansas and New Mexico. In 2022, he only made two appearances for the Tide, coming against against Utah State and Texas.
Despite his limited playing time, George possesses a ton of playmaking ability. He spent his high school career playing for Texas powerhouse North Shore where he was a 4-star recruit who held the No. 31 OT spot of his recruiting class. He was also ranked the 56th overall player in Texas.
George is the fifth Alabama player to test the waters in the portal. Again, despite his limited action this season, he played a lot in 2021 — not just on offense, but also on special teams. His stout build and versatility could be just what the Rebels need to help fuel a strong offensive front.
Dont’e Thornton, WR, Oregon
We all have thoroughly enjoyed the Ole Miss ground game this season as Quinshon Judkins and Zach Evans have set the SEC afire. But you can bet Coach Kiffin is also searching for some impact wide receivers for the 2023 team. Might Dont’e Thornton be one of those?
Thornton’s towering 6-foot-5 height and his deceptive speed could be just what the portal doctor ordered for next season’s Rebels. This season, he accounted for 17 receptions, 366 yards and one touchdown, with two carries for six yards to finish out his sophomore campaign and close out his time as an Oregon Duck.
As a true freshman, he notched nine catches for 175 yards and two touchdowns.
The former star wide out from Mount Saint Joseph High School (Baltimore, Maryland) being back on the market will indeed be a prize for the right team. A talent such as Thornton paired with Ole Miss QB Jaxson Dart could be a dynamic that would elevate the Rebels’ offense even more next season.
A Dark Horse
Truman Jones, DT, Harvard
What I love about the transfer portal is seeing how players who are diamonds in the rough sometimes are the ones who make the most impact. One of those could be Harvard defensive tackle Truman Jones, a 2018 graduate of Westminster School in Atlanta. (And, yes, this Brown grad is pulling for a kid from Harvard.)
We all know games are won in trenches, and this season showed just how much the big guys upfront can be the difference-makers in a win — or a loss. This a position where the Rebels need to build depth.
During his time with the Crimson, Jones tallied 88 tackles (28.5 coming for a loss) 14.5 sacks and 87 pressures. He finished this season with 13 TFL, 8 sacks and 42 pressures. He blocked three kicks, and that is fourth best in the NCAA.
Ole Miss players in the portal
Currently, several Ole Miss players have already announced their intent to transfer. They are as follows:
- DL Demon Clowney
- DL Brandon Mack
- RB Kentrel Bullock
- RB Isaiah Woullard
- QB Luke Altmyer
- S MJ Daniels
There will be plenty of playmakers looking for their next opportunity, and you can bet the Rebs will be masterful in devising their portal plan. Stay tuned to The Rebel Walk as we keep you posted on all the portal movement.
Lee Ann is the Director of Recruiting for The Rebel Walk. She is a veteran SEC sports journalist and NFL content writer. She is also the Sr. Editor for MESPORTS digital. Herring-Olvedo is a Brown University graduate who loves good cigars, good games, and a smooth glass of bourbon — not necessarily in that order.