he Ole Miss football team took advantage of excellent spring weather with another practice on Tuesday, as the Rebels prepare for the Grove Bowl this coming weekend.
The final practice week of the spring culminates with the annual Grove Bowl, presented by Mississippi HomeCare, this Saturday (April 15) at 2 p.m. Gates at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium will open at 1 p.m. and admission is free.
Head coach Lane Kiffin took to the podium to address the media after Tuesday’s practice, noting the team’s progression with their starters and how the coaching staff has gelled together this spring.
“I think things are going really well,” Kiffin said. “I’m very pleased with some of our front-line guys and how they’re playing. I’m very encouraged by where we’re at and how our staff has come together, and trying to intertwine all of these new pieces.”
Among those front-line starters for the Rebels is running back Quinshon Judkins, who was recently named to the Walter Camp All-America First Team after setting the Ole Miss single-season records in rushing yards (1,567) and rushing touchdowns (16) in 2022. His 1,567 yards on the ground were the second-most ever by a freshman in SEC history, trailing only Georgia’s Herschel Walker who had 1,616 yards in 1980.
“You have to remember he was just a true freshman, so that’s really amazing, what he was able to do (last year),” Kiffin said. “Now he can take the next step, which we see. When guys are freshmen, we’re trying to get them to line up and play. Now, we have a chance to have a spring where they know stuff and can go to the next level. You think of players that you’ve coached before, and I feel like Reggie Bush was that way. He had a good freshman year, and it was like, ‘OK, now you can really do all of this other stuff with him’ and I’m really excited about that.”
A recent addition to Kiffin’s staff, defensive coordinator Pete Golding brings a new scheme with new players to Oxford, including defensive lineman Joshua Harris. The transfer from NC State earned praise from Kiffin for his immediate impact to the program this spring.
“He really filled the void of someone who had played and been a true zero-nose, and we haven’t had that type of body necessarily and it was really good to get him,” Kiffin said. “We knew the coaches (at NC State) really well and did a lot of background on him, and I’m really excited that he is here. He was actually the player of the game of our defense two Saturdays ago.”
IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A PLANE – NO, IT’S QUINSHON
Calling what Judkins did in 2022 historic may be a bit of an understatement and has been publicized countless times. Named the National Freshman of the Year by CBS, On3’s Offensive True Freshman of the Year, the SEC Newcomer and SEC Freshman of the Year, the running back ranked among the top 10 nationally in both rushing yards (No. 7) and rushing touchdowns (No. 10). However, Judkins wasn’t shy to admit it took some time to get comfortable last year.
“There were definitely some moments that I felt comfortable, especially some of the first SEC games and getting used to the defenses,” Judkins said. “But there were a lot of things that I left out and a lot of things I did know that I can improve upon, so this year is going to be better.”
Judkins has been a fixture in the Ole Miss offense this spring in practice and is excited to take his game to the next level with his foot on the gas.
“No matter what it is, I’m just very competitive,” Judkins said. “Whatever I do, I want to be the best at, and it doesn’t matter what the clock or score says, I’m going to give it my all.”
A POWERFUL PALISADE
Paired with great returners, transfers, and a new defensive coordinator, the Rebels’ defensive front looks to be one of the stronger units of the team. After playing in 12 games at NC State, Harris will be a key part of the front line for Ole Miss this year and was a major target for Kiffin and his staff during the offseason.
“I hit the portal and the next day they were at my house,” Harris said. “So, it just goes to show they had a lot of interest in me. They stood out, the coaches, and I felt like I could come here and develop.”
Following a five-year stint at Alabama, Golding brings his scheme to Ole Miss that had the Crimson Tide in the top-20 in FBS in scoring defense every year. His new system has been highly praised by the team this spring, and Harris is excited for the opportunity it brings.
“I’m loving (the new defensive scheme),” Harris said. “I feel like it’s made for defensive lineman to make plays; all of the stunts we’re doing up front, and we’re also taking blocks off the backers to make plays. I love it, (Golding) is a great guy and he brings the energy and he’s for us.”
Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports