By Adam Brown
First-year Ole Miss head football coach Lane Kiffin and his staff opened fall practice Monday in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The team is practicing in preparation for the opening kickoff of the 2020 season on September 26.
“Good to finally get out for the first day,” Kiffin said. It has been a long wait having walkthroughs big difference in having practice. Finally got out there and have a lot of work to do… Having missed spring practice, getting guys to use to how we practice and what the standards are. We were out there but have a long way to go.”
During fall camp this season, teams across the country have to find ways to prevent spreading COVID-19 in order to keep practices running. At this point in time, an exact number has not been set as to how many positive cases of the virus will warrant a camp shutdown.
“We lean on the medical staff on that,” Kiffin said. “We like where we are at and just go day by day. If it got to the point we need to shut down then we will talk about it. Right now we are moving forward.”
Starting senior center Eli Johnson announced his decision to opt-out of the season Sunday night, just a few hours before the start of fall camp on Monday.
“I spoke with Eli, he made a decision we are fine with it and we told him if he still wanted to be around nights before the games, and meetings and stuff on the sidelines we are more than happy to do that,” Kiffin said. “We respect his decision.”
The Rebel coaching staff are considering several different players for the center position as of Monday. Ben Brown took snaps according to Kiffin.
The SEC released a new calendar to provide schools 25 practices with a limit of 20 hours per week of practice time. It also details new protocols that teams have to follow to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Like the team meetings in the indoor practice facility with a hundred chairs out there instead of in the team room,” Kiffin said. “Everybody wants a fast 40 time. Everybody wants to lift weights and get strong so they play better and win games. Well, this is going to be more important than the shape you’re in, how strong you are or how fast you are. The teams that handled this the best, the players that are the safest, those teams are going to win a lot of games.”
Kiffin stressed that a high rate of positive cases of the virus could be devastating for the team.
“You could have some teams down significant players, especially when it comes to social distancing if you don’t handle that properly,” Kiffin said. All of a sudden a couple people get it and you shut down 20 guys for two weeks. What if that’s your offensive line room? What do you do?”
Kiffin estimated that 80 to 90 percent of players’ classes are online this semester.
“I believe that most of the professors have gone that way,” he said.
The staff has yet to name a starting quarterback. The Rebels split snaps as fall camp opened between the ones and twos.
“Matt (Corral) and John Rhys (Plumlee) had very even snaps,” Kiffin said. “All five QB’s are getting reps.”