OXFORD, Miss. -- This December will mark three years since Ole Miss secured Lane Kiffin as its head coach, and the Rebels have flourished under his leadership in ways that go much further than just the winning seasons.
Kiffin has bagged the name ‘Portal King’ for his continuous efforts to bring the best talent to Ole Miss despite losing an absurd number of key players to the transfer portal and the NFL Draft.
He was a relentless advocate for The Grove Collective, which is an Ole Miss exclusive NIL program created to support and elevate Ole Miss athletes.
And he has instilled a professional culture in the Rebels’ locker room, built on the integrity of his players.
In three years as the Rebels' head coach, Kiffin has a record of 23-11, and he is 18-6 over the past two seasons. He brought the Rebels to the Sugar Bowl for the first time since 2016, doing so in his second year at Ole Miss, and the Rebels’ offense averaged the most yards per game in the SEC that year with 492.5.
Kiffin replaced Ole Miss legend and quarterback Matt Corral with sophomore quarterback Jaxson Dart who only played in six games as a freshman at USC. Despite some growing pains, Dart has flashed an immense amount of potential as a passer and a runner, and he is a big reason this program sits at 8-3.
Following very productive 2021 seasons from Ole Miss running backs Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Connor, both declared for the draft, leaving several big shoes to be filled in the Rebels’ backfield. Kiffin snagged TCU standout Zach Evans in the transfer portal and put his faith in freshman recruit Quinshon Judkins.
Judkins has been named a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award, which is given to the nation’s top college running back, and he is a semifinalist for the Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award. Judkins also broke the 1949 Ole Miss football’s single-season rushing record of 1,312 rushing yards. Judkins has 1,352 rushing yards, and he still has one more game left on the year.
Evans has taken a back seat role to Judkins but is still putting up starting-caliber numbers. Evans has 899 yards and eight rushing touchdowns for an average of 6.9 yards per carry on the year. Because of the recruiting and transfer portal mastery by Lane Kiffin, the Rebels have two running backs that could start on any team in the nation.
In the last week, The Grove Collective has partnered with Realtree, an outdoor hunting show in the United States and Kessinger Real Estate a real estate agency in Oxford, Mississippi.
They have also brought in three Ole Miss student-athletes to be Grove Collective Ambassadors and Marketing Representatives. These students are redshirt freshman offensive tackle Micah Pettus, sophomore catcher Kemp Alderman, and sophomore linebacker Austin Keys.
Executive Director of The Grove Collective, Walker Jones, spoke with the Mississippi radio network SuperTalk on Nov. 17 and had this to say about Auburn’s potential NIL resources and his relationship with Lane Kiffin.
“I am really really comfortable with what we have on hand, what we have pledged, and what were going to have every day as this continues to scale up,” Jones said.
“A lot of NIL stuff is hearsay. I know Lane Kiffin is comfortable with where The Grove Collective is. We have delivered on everything he has asked us to deliver on, and we have far exceeded our goals financially with membership. We sit here today in a really good position, and I will let that speak for itself.”
It is still not official whether Kiffin will remain the head coach of the Ole Miss Rebels. If he stays, we know the trajectory of Ole Miss football can only go up and the future is bright, but if he leaves, there is certainly a lot of momentum lost from the Rebels’ program.
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