Ole Miss QB competition continues: Spencer Sanders and Jaxson Dart meet with media ahead of Mercer
OXFORD, Miss. — As the legendary singer/songwriter Tom Petty once penned, “The waiting is the hardest part.” For a pair of Ole Miss quarterbacks, waiting to hear their name as the starter for the Rebels must be excruciating.
It appears incumbent Jaxson Dart and Oklahoma State transfer Spencer Sanders are battling it out to earn the first snap against Mercer Saturday.
“We’ve not made that final decision,” head coach Lane Kiffin said Monday. “We’re very excited about all of the guys. As far as for the starter, that’s two people and both guys did extremely well (in the mock scrimmage), made really explosive plays Saturday, managed the offense well, and I feel really confident with either of them.”
Still, the two frontrunners might be on edge about their roles this season for the Rebels. Each of the signal callers met with media today after practice and were asked about the competition.
Dart was asked if it was frustrating to have not been named the starter yet. His answer was very direct. “Yeah, I think so,” he said quickly. “Absolutely.”
He offered a glimpse into his mindset throughout this competition.
”I just prepare myself the way I have since I’ve been here. Nothing’s ever going to change about that so, that’s my mindset.”
Dart was the starter last season for Ole Miss, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and passing for 20 touchdowns. He feels he has matured a lot in his knowledge of the Rebels’ offense now that he’s been in the system for a year.
“I feel great about it. I am looking forward to this year and showing out on the field. I just know everything’s going to fall into place and we’re going to be in a good position with the team.”
After starting 41 games at Oklahoma State over four years, Sanders knows how to take in the inner workings of an offense. And he says he continues to get better as he has learned Lane Kiffin’s offense.
“I feel great,” said Sanders. “Just keep getting better every day. Getting really good with the offense, getting real familiar with it. Just kind of having that natural kind of coordination with it brought me a long way,” he added.
“I feel like I’ve excelled in a lot of ways in this offense. I’m excited for what the future holds.”
Sanders brought a lot of excitement to Stillwater, Okla., in four years, throwing for 9,553 yards for the Cowboys. The transfer quarterback was asked about his relationship with Dart, and his answer was interesting.
“I would say it’s pretty good, I wouldn’t say it’s bad,” Sanders explained.
“I wouldn’t say we go out and get ice cream together when we’re at home, but we’re cordial. You know, we’re mutual. We talk to each other. We help each other. He’s actually helped me quite a bit. So, you know, obviously he’s been here. He knows the offense. You want to be the best at the offense. You know, you at least got to know the person who was the best here before you got here so you learn things.”
Spencer Sanders on his relationship with Dart
As much as Coach Kiffin has been inside the offensive huddle, there is another player in that group who has an opinion on each of the quarterbacks. Running back Quinshon Judkins has seen the trio up close in practices. Being with all of them gives the preseason All-American trust in anyone under center for the Rebels.
“I think with me just being so confident with each and every one of those guys it hasn’t had an effect on me in that way,” Judkins said. “I think that just me knowing that no matter who’s in there, they’re great at what they do, they’re confident in their game and whoever is put out there, they will perform.”
Saban not releasing depth chart
While it appears Kiffin will wait as long as possible to name his starting quarterback, he is not the only Southeastern Conference coach to delay that decision. His former boss, Nick Saban, is not even releasing a depth chart prior to the first game. He would like the players to make the decision for him.
“I don’t think anybody has actually separated themselves yet to this point, and I don’t think it’s something that we’re trying to rush,” Saban said earlier this year. “We’ve got to let this develop and make sure we let the cake bake until somebody separates themselves.”
Kiffin has a wealth of talented quarterbacks at Ole Miss. Perhaps Saturday, one will separate himself.
Ole Miss opens the season this week against Mercer at 1:00 p.m., at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
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.