You'd think Rebel DL Coach Chris Kiffin would be bemoaning - at least a little bit - losing players the caliber of Robert Nkemdiche, Channing Ward and Woodrow Hamilton, but, on the contrary, he says he and the Ole Miss football staff have planned for this day and recruited accordingly.
"We are doing good things this spring," said Kiffin. "I like our main guys, I like our backups. We were able to redshirt some guys and let them grow up some before throwing them in there and now I believe they are ready, or at least they will be by fall. Victor Evans, Ross Donnelly, Austrian Robinson and Garrald McDowell are all in their second or third years now and it's time.
"As for our frontline guys, we have Breeland )Speaks) and D.J. (Jones) at the tackles, and they are having great springs and Marquis (Haynes) and John (Youngblood) at the ends and they are also doing real well. We are missing DE Fadol Brown and DT Isasac Gross, who we will count on in the fall. Overall, I am very pleased with where we are in spring ball."
Kiffin has always played at least eight players in his four spots, rotating liberally. Will he still be able to do that?
"I believe you have to play at least eight and I believe we will have eight ready to go," he stated. "Now, we may not give the backups as many reps as they got last year, or we may give them more, it all depends on their production, but, yes, we will play at least eight guys in 2016. We have to have four tackles and four ends and we have that with the early addition of freshman Benito Jones."
Donnelly is one of the intriguing players in Kiffin's war room. He was forced to play last year when both Gross and Herbert Moore went down early in the year. Kiffin said he's made good spring advancement.
"It was tough for him last year. The transition from high school to college, especially in the trenches, is difficult and I don't think defensive linemen overall get the credit they deserve for what they have to learn on each level," Kiff explained. "He's had to learn technique to compete with the biggest, strongest guys in the country. He's very smart and he will give us quality depth."
And first impressions of Jones?
"He reminds me a lot of Issac the first time I coached him," Chris continued. "They are very similar with the quickness of the first step. Benito is also a great young man. He is everyone's favorite players already. He's a quick learner of skills and he should be able to help us next year. I love his first step - it's disruptive."
Evans and McDowell are also two players that Kiffin wants to be able to count on and should be able to, he says.
"Victor is a little ahead of Garrald right now and he will be the fourth end if Fadol is healthy. He flashes out there and does good things at times, but he's still young and still needs to work on his consistency," noted Kiffin.
Freshman Charles Wiley is also on board this spring, fresh out of high school.
"He's going to be a special player here. He is a combine freak - he can run and jump and he's very explosive. He's just raw right now. To have him and Benito here early is awesome, Charles is a quick learner and he's simply going to be a very good player in time at Ole Miss," Chris noted. "He's feeling his way through right now, but when he gets some things down pat and turns it loose, he's going to be real, real good."null