By Adam Brown
Ole Miss is entering its third week of preparation for the 2020 football season. With the season scheduled to kick off in just a little over three weeks, Head Coach Lane Kiffin and his staff are doing their best to hold productive practices while managing a roster full of missing players due to injuries and COVID-19 related issues.
Kiffin and his staff have struggled to format a depth chart as the number of players able to practice continues to change day by day. Official numbers on how many players have tested positive for the virus or have come into close contact with someone who has have not been released.
“I get text(s) in the morning as people say ‘these three people failed COVID test, and there’s more in close contact,’” Kiffin said. “It’s hard to even figure out who our first and second units are because it is changing so much.”
Two position groups in particular have been tried especially hard by setbacks due to COVID-19 and injuries.
“I think as far as COVID the DB’s were hit the worst, and injury-wise the tight ends have,” Kiffin said. “We’ve got people rotating all over the place. We’ve got a couple of guys back, but when they first come back, they’re not back.”
Junior linebacker MoMo Sanogo discussed after practice how the team reacts to a teammate missing practice for weeks due to the virus.
“It’s a lot of frustration. Odds are that you’re not going to get into close contact because of what happens here,” Sanogo said. “Because we are required to wear masks in meetings and anytime we are walking somewhere. Odds are it’s like, hanging out with somebody outside. When it kept happening and kept happening, at one point we had a lot of guys out and none of it for COVID, just close contact. (It was) just precautionary and woke people’s minds up.”
Coaches have been informed by the conference that a COVID-19 positive player is required to stay out of practice for 14 days as they enter quarantine. However, Kiffin says the amount of time a player is unable to participate is generally longer.
“After the 14 days, then they’re not back… They have to go get more tests to make sure they’re okay. Then they’ve got to be worked back in slowly,” Kiffin said. “It’s almost like if you get it, you’re out for three weeks.”
Still, the Rebels managed to hold their second scrimmage of fall camp. According to Kiffin, it was largely similar to the first one. The only major difference was that the team tackled for the first half of the second scrimmage.
“We have done a lot of players on defense, especially in the secondary,” Kiffin said. “(We’ve) got a lot of work to do, but a lot of opportunities for some down the line kids to play.”
Despite being currently unable to practice, most players who are quarantined or injured are still hoping for a chance to play during the season opener against Florida.
“The people that will miss the Florida game will be between now and then,” Kiffin said. “The people that will miss out are the guys who have failed the (COVID-19) test next week, and the week after that or the week right before the game.”