OXFORD — Tuesday was Ole Miss football’s first day in full pads and sixth practice overall. But the question of who the Rebels’ starting quarterback will be come fall still remains up in the air.
Sophomore Luke Altmyer is locked in a battle with USC sophomore transfer Jaxson Dart to be Ole Miss’s starting quarterback. The winner will replace Matt Corral, a third-round draft pick of the Carolina Panthers and seventh-place Heisman Trophy finisher a season ago after helping the Rebels to their first 10-win regular season and a Sugar Bowl berth.
As has been the case during the first week of practice, both Altmyer and Dart alternated first-team offensive reps, and both have had their shares of highs and lows. Altmyer found sophomore Bralon Brown for a touchdown Tuesday morning, and Dart had impressive touchdown tosses to Mississippi State transfer Malik Heath and redshirt freshman J.J. Henry at different points in practice.
The battle remains far from decided and has, in some ways, made him grateful for the known commodity he had last season. In two years under Kiffin, Corral threw for 6,686 yards and 49 touchdown passes. He also had 15 rushing scores, including 11 last season.
“I know I sound like a broken record. They do some things really well, and at times they look young again,” Kiffin said. “Everything in life is about what you just saw. … You take for granted what you have in life in all areas sometimes. And I kept telling our guys the last two years, especially last year, guys, these throws, there’s not many people making these throws. And you’re just used to every throw being in there and not just miss.
“It takes some getting used to, having new quarterbacks and losing a veteran that was elite arm talent.”
Altmyer was a four-star recruit in the class of 2021 after starring at Starkville High School. Dart is from Utah and played last season at USC before entering the transfer portal. He was widely seen as one of the top transfer targets in the country, regardless of position.
Accolades aren’t going to play a hand in winning the 2022 quarterback derby, however, Kiffin said.
“That’s a fair question. That absolutely would have nothing to do with how we play players here,” Kiffin said. “And we’ve got tons of examples over time, we don’t care how many stars you are, where you’re from, whether you’re from the state, whether you’re not. I mean, when I got here, I was dumb for playing the other quarterback. So, we don’t look at anything that way.”
Offensive line depth
While the starting offensive line group appears set — junior Jeremy James at left tackle, senior Nick Broeker at left guard, junior Caleb Warren at center, sophomore Eli Acker at right guard and senior Western Kentucky transfer Mason Brooks at right guard — and should be a team strength, the depth behind them less of a known commodity. Kiffin is confident in the young, developing talent.
“(I feel) better, we have some really promising young guys that have a bright future and are talented and long,” Kiffin said. “So, this is the time where we have a million reps going on on both fields. They hit walls, these young guys at all positions hit walls right now, and it’s hard for them. So, we’ll keep plugging along.”
Kiffin “excited” by Tywone Malone’s development
Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Tywone Malone hurt his knee his senior year of high school, played in just one game last season and spent his spring playing with the Ole Miss baseball team. Malone was a highly-coveted recruit out of New Jersey but has yet to make a significant impact. Kiffin said he is pleased with Malone’s progress.
“Missed time obviously with the baseball part, which is unique for a defensive lineman,” Kiffin said. “But we’re excited with his progress and excited with his future.”
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