Notes: Kiffin talks portal, coaching staff, playoff and more
OXFORD — Like every program in the country, Ole Miss is watching the transfer portal closely.
However, Rebels coach Lane Kiffin said Thursday he’s not necessarily shopping for anything specific. Instead, he’s hoping to make some late additions to his roster that provide impact.
“It used to be just grad transfers so it had to be a position of need,” Kiffin said. “Now, with the one-time transfer (rule), they may have four years of eligibility. So, it’s not positions anymore. It’s more, ‘Hey, you have a deep position, but there’s a great young player, so you take him.’”
Kiffin reiterated what he’s said many times — the transfer portal has positives and negatives.
“There are hundreds of kids that are going to be out there with nowhere to go,” Kiffin said just before taking the stage at the Pavilion at Ole Miss, where he was part of the Rebel Road Trip that has been conducted this week. “No one ever talks about that. They just talk about the big-name ones that go somewhere else. There’s a few stories that work really well. There are a lot of stories that don’t. I don’t know. It is what it is. It’s free agency.”
Kiffin said he’d like to see the timeframe in which players can leave for the portal tweaked.
“That sure makes a lot more sense than trying to manage rosters where people can leave during training camp,” Kiffin said.
Linebacker Jacquez Jones announced his transfer to Kentucky Thursday, leaving Ole Miss without its leading tackler from last season. However, Jones’ playing time was threatened after Ole Miss landed former Maryland linebacker Chance Campbell in the transfer portal and saw several young players have strong springs.
“That actually is a deep position with a lot of scholarship players there,” Kiffin said. “We were already rotating there. MoMo (Sanogo) had a really good spring and we’ll just throw a bunch of people in there in the fall and see.”
KIFFIN PLEASED WITH NEW STAFFERS
Kiffin said he’s liked what he’s seen so far from new offensive line coach Jake Thornton, who replaced Randy Clement late last month.
Ole Miss fired Clement in late April and embarked on a search for his replacement before hiring Thornton from Gardner-Webb. Thornton graduated from college in 2015, but his youth was not a detriment in the interview process.
“We went through a lot of people,” Kiffin said. “We wanted to find someone who’s a really good teacher and we trusted the interview process. …I think he’s a really good recruiter from our experience so far, and I think it will pay off.”
Thornton is the third very young coach Kiffin has added to his staff since the end of the 2020 season, joining defensive line coach Randall Joyner and tight ends coach/passing game coordinator John David Baker.
“I don’t know that initially, it was no matter what, that was going to happen,” Kiffin said. “I’m very open and want the best available, so I don’t say you have to have old or you have to have young. We interviewed a bunch of people and they were really good fits. I do like that they’re young and excited to be here.”
KIFFIN LIKES PLAYOFF PROPOSAL
It appears college football’s playoff format will expand from four teams to 12 in 2023, and Kiffin said Thursday he likes the concept.
“It’s great,” Kiffin said. “There are more opportunities, but like everything, there are other issues with timing and things like that. I do think it’s good. What if you only had the 1 seeds in basketball? There’d be a lot of people that never won the championship that would’ve won the championship and vice-versa. So I think it’s good from that standpoint. How does the playoff committee know? I’ve seen a year where they went 1,2, 3, 4, and 4 beat 1 and 3 beat 2 and then 4 beat 3. It’s not that easy to figure out.”
— Kiffin said he is hopeful freshman tight end Hudson Wolfe is cleared by the fall after missing the spring with an injury.
“It’s a position of need and he’s very talented,” Kiffin said.
— Kiffin said he’s told John Rhys Plumlee they’ll discuss his football future after the baseball season ends. Plumlee is an outfielder on Ole Miss’ team, one that will face Arizona in Game 1 of a best-of-three super regional Friday night in Tucson.
“It’s an unusual situation because it’s normally your call,” Kiffin said. “I want a lot of input from him because his heart has to be into whatever we do.”
Plumlee, who began his career as a quarterback, played slot receiver in Ole Miss’ Outback Bowl win over Indiana on Jan. 2.