By Adam Brown
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin addressed the media following Monday’s start to fall camp. The Rebels are entering their second season under Kiffin.
Kiffin said “good to get players out there in helmets” for the practices thus far.
“Still a lot of work to do, but good to get back out on the field with them (in) somewhat of a normal situation,” he said.
As the Rebels enter camp, they are at 100% vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.
“Proud of the vaccination part by our players, staff, and really everyone in contact with our players, which is a lot of people, over 240 people,” Kiffin said. “I think that shows a lot about their commitment to safety (and) their commitment to each other — not just to protect themselves but to protect bringing something in here.
“It took a while to get to that point,” Kiffin said. “It’s a really good message to the state and other people: do what you emphasize. It’s great to see.”
Ole Miss has had two practices to this point heading into the season opener against the Louisville Cardinals on Sept. 6.
Kiffin described them as “very competitive practices. Two fields going, a lot of guys rotating — ones, twos, threes, fours. Guys having a lot of competition opportunity” and figuring things out early in camp.
Junior John Rhys Plumlee was playing at wide receiver, and Kinkead Dent and Luke Altmeyer were taking snaps behind Matt Corral.
“Kinkead and Luke will be in a really big competition for that spot, knowing that John at times could go back there. The focus is John playing receiver because I don’t think he could get really good at that doing both, having never done it before,” Kiffin said.
“He’s basically their full-time for there right now,” Kiffin said, adding that it is early in camp so he’ll see how Plumlee can develop from there. “It’s really the only fair thing to do to him. If you go back and forth, it’s just too hard at this level to get really good at it.”
The Rebels have had Orlando Umana under center as camp has started. Umana transferred to Ole Miss out of Utah to play as a senior.
“He’s had two good days; we’ve thrown him in there. Obviously has good experience, has played a lot,” Kiffin said. “Also, there’s a learning process of playing center in our system, much different than what he came from with the tempo aspect of it. If he plays slow, our whole offense is in trouble, so he’s going to have to develop that way and improve on that. If he can do that and play well, I think it allows us to play people at the right spots.”
Umana’s addition to the roster allows Ben Brown to move back to play guard, Kiffin said.
Senior defensive back Otis Reese returns after only getting to play in three games in the 2020 season.
“That was a long year for him. Obviously, we were grateful when it happened. He went through a lot of ups and downs,” Kiffin said. “It would look like it was close and then it wouldn’t happen. I was just happy he stayed with it. Did such a great job on the service team but stayed in the game plan, knowing that at any time it could happen.
“I’m sure that was a struggle since it was so late in the season and he still wasn’t eligible,” Kiffin explained, “so he did a good job getting thrown in there.”
Now that Reese has had an offseason “to get comfortable,” Kiffin said he expects a big season from him.
Kiffin and his staff are looking at a lot of competition at the linebacker position with the addition of Chance Campbell out of Maryland.
“With Chance coming in — obviously, we lost somebody who had a lot of playing experience there — but Chance has experience, so that helps out there,” Kiffin said. “Chance has done a good job playing two different positions through two days. … If we’re going to be really good on defense, we’re going to need a lot of guys to play well because nowadays you can’t play all the snaps and play really well in my opinion, especially with the tempo. So we need a lot of depth.”