Ole Miss Offense Taking COVID-19 More Seriously than the Defense?

Nate Gabler

For the second week in a row, the Ole Miss football team is being hit yet again with a string of COVID-19 related issues. 

Head coach Lane Kiffin announced on Monday that another set of players have tested positive, leading to players having to sit out. Most, if not all, of these issues are coming on the defensive side of the football, but there's not enough cases that would cause Ole Miss to miss a game. 

"We got some more in the last three days, so it's becoming very challenging," Kiffin said on Monday. "As you guys probably did math, we had two starters out last week. This is not easy, especially when for whatever reason it continues to hit us on defense.

"The problem is the contact tracing. Those guys can't test out. So, they continue to test negative, but you can't bring them back for 14 days. That to me is the part that is really frustrating, because schools have different rules."

Tariqious Tisdale and Jakorey Hawkins, both starters who had played around two-thirds of snaps through three games for Ole Miss, were not available against Arkansas because of these issues. 

To this point, no offensive players of not have missed time due to COVID-19 or subsequent contact tracing. That side of the ball seems to have a better handle on the effects that the virus can have on a program, even if it isn't posing serious health issues to those missing time. 

"I don't really know. I just know as an offense, Matt (Corral) has done a good job of stressing to us 'don't go out,'" said receiver Elijah Moore. "I don't really know what they say (on defense)... football is more important than partying. I can't really speak for them."

Through the opening few weeks of Ole Miss football camp, Ole Miss had a few positive cases on both sides of the ball to deal with. They then went six weeks without any positive cases whatsoever. 

That's when, according to some of the older Rebel defenders, some things may have changed.

"I think people just got comfortable, comfortable that we didn't have any positive tests. Things got a little bit relaxed and people were out and about a little bit more," said linebacker MoMo Sanogo. "It's a reminder to everybody that this is something we have to deal with the whole season. We have to be just as locked in with that as we were at the beginning."

"We just have to keep encouraging guys to wear masks, even when they think they don't need to be."

As Kiffin said, the majority of players out right now are due to contract tracing protocols, not necessarily positive tests. Regardless, mandates for close contact require a 14-day quarantine, regardless if you're showing symptoms or not. 

These SEC mandates are things Ole Miss as a whole has been struggling with, not just the defense. The Rebel athletic department was recently fined 100,000-dollars by the SEC for failures to following the league's COVID-19 protocols. Two others teams in the league were also hit, primarily due to "sideline mask-wearing" from the coach and staff.

Kiffin, this past week following the fines, switched to a mask that tied around his ears rather than the neck bandana. 

Regardless of the severity of cases within the program, it's something the Rebels are figuring out they need to take more seriously. Even if players and staffers feel fine, they still could test positive and negatively impact the play on the field. After two straight weeks of such issues, it's time to see if they'll improve moving forward. 

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The Grove Report's Week 5 SEC Power Rankings

Early Line Movement Towards Ole Miss Against Auburn this Weekend

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