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Lane Kiffin Dicusses Additions Of New Ole Miss QBs Walker Howard And Spencer Sanders

The Grove Report on FanNation logo The Grove Report on FanNation 2/2/2023 Cole Thompson
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There could be a three-way competition for the starting quarterback position in Oxford this offseason.

Leave it to Lane Kiffin to find an analogy comparing college football to the NFL. After spending time at both levels, the Ole Miss head coach at least has a grasp on the similarities. 

Much like the NFL, college football is all about depth. The teams playing next week in Glendale, Ariz., for a shot at the Lombardi Trophy are loaded with proven starters, but also have premier backups that could come in and hold their own if called upon. 

It's why Kiffin was aggressive in adding both Oklahoma State's Spencer Sanders and LSU's Walker Howard to the Rebels' quarterback room out of the transfer portal. Even if Ole Miss still is set on Jaxson Dart being its starter in 2023, having a quality option waiting in the wings might be the difference between another 8-5 season and a chance to make the College Football Playoff. 

"I'm very excited about the quarterback room," Kiffin said Wednesday following National Signing Day. "I was very concerned about it from pure numbers, you guys can figure that out. My job is to put together the best roster every year. And you know, we had a chance to bring those two guys in."

Sanders will act as the veteran in the room following his four-year run as the Cowboys' starter. Throwing for 9,553 yards and 67 touchdowns against 40 interceptions, Sanders will provide leadership and competition in his lone season on The Grove. 

Howard, a former five-star talent from Lafayette, La., should be considered the long-term option post-2023. Committing to Brian Kelly and the Bayou Bengals last spring, Howard elected to enter the transfer portal following the announcement of 2022 starter Jayden Daniels' return. 

Both Howard and Sanders could be given a fair shot to earn the title of QB1 before the Rebels' Week 1 matchup against Mercer at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Kiffin was asked if there would be an open competition between the three passers but did not provide a straight answer. 

Dart, who transferred from USC last offseason, showed improvements throughout the year in Kiffin's offense. In 13 games, the Utah native threw for 2,974 yards, 20 touchdowns against 11 interceptions, and completed 62.4 percent of his throws. 

"I think Jaxson did a lot of great things last year," Kiffin said. "I know Jaxson, when he initially played versus the middle and end, dramatically improved for a young quarterback. We're very excited about continuing that."

Kiffin might be following a similar path to that of San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan. Injuries nearly derailed the NFC West franchise following a Week 2 season-ending injury to starter Trey Lance. Instead, adequate play from veteran Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie Brock Purdy eventually led the 49ers to their third NFC Championship appearance in four years. 

Quarterback consistency was the x-factor out west. It may be the same in Oxford come next fall.

"The quarterback room is dramatically in a much better position than it was a year ago," Kiffin said. "That's really our goal with our whole roster and every position every year is to continue to improve what goes out versus what comes in, and continue to win that battle. That will be very exciting to see those guys develop."

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