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Ole Miss Transfer Portal Additions: Can They Make A Difference?

Ole Miss transfer portal

At this point in time, we all know about the transfer portal. It’s been around long enough that we’re all used to it, and whether it’s good for the game or not, or whether we all may or may not like it, it’s here to stay. It also makes the off-season more exciting, which is certainly a plus.

The portal has become such an important part of recruiting that most recruiting services no longer look solely at high school rankings. Instead, most use a composite of both high schoolers and transfers to rank programs.

It is worth noting that some programs, and coaches, use the portal better than others. Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin is one of the coaches that utilize it extremely well. For instance, 247 Sports has the Rebels ranked sixth in their 2023 Transfer Portal rankings, and 20th in their overall composite rankings.

But that doesn’t mean all transfers work out the way they should.

So let’s look at a few of the key additions the Rebels added through the portal, and what kind of impact they could potentially have.

Offense

Spencer Sanders

It’s been previously covered, but the Ole Miss quarterback room is crowded. Oklahoma State transfer quarterback Spencer Sanders is a big reason for that. As a starter for four years in Stillwater, Sanders threw for 9553 yards and 67 TDs, completing 61% of his passes.

No starter has been named, but it appears to be a two-man race between Sanders and last year’s Rebel starter Jaxson Dart. If he shows that he’s fully recovered from last season’s shoulder injury, Sanders certainly has a good opportunity to win the job.

Walker Howard

Another quarterback transfer, this time from LSU, Walker Howard could eventually become a star in Oxford. But it likely won’t be this season, unless injuries pop up. Despite throwing only four passes at the collegiate level (in his one season on the Bayou), the future is extremely bright. He’s arguably the best true passer on the roster, but his inexperience likely puts him last on the depth chart to this point. While he may not see much playing time this season, his talent alone should create a fun, competitive environment for the entire Rebels quarterback room, which should benefit everyone involved.

Tre Harris

A wide receiver transfer from Louisiana Tech, Tre Harris is going to have the opportunity to play a big role in the Ole Miss offense this season. Listed at 6-3, 190 pounds, he’s not a very big guy, especially in terms of weight. This could mean his chances of playing wideout in the SEC may not be where he ends up, but in a Lane Kiffin offense, putting him at the slot could be a difference-maker.

With good hands and speed, look for Harris to make an immediate impact with a slightly depleted Rebels receiving room. He won’t be the next DK Metcalf or AJ Brown, but he should easily be a guy that becomes a household name amongst Ole Miss fans rather quickly.

Zakhari Franklin

Much like Harris, a summary of UTSA transfer receiver Zakhari Franklin would look similar. A smaller receiver than we’re used to seeing (listed at 6-1, 185), don’t be fooled into thinking that’ll slow his production. In four seasons as a Roadrunner, his receptions increased each season. This includes catching 94 passes for 1,136 yards and 15 TDs during the 2022 campaign.

Both have the opportunity to make a solid impact this season, but expect Franklin to be more of a big-play threat. They likely don’t make the Rebels receiving room elite, but with a solid rushing attack, it’ll suffice.

Defense

Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste

A UCF transfer, linebacker Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste has had a mixed college career to this point. In his first two seasons as a Golden Knight, the numbers weren’t there, but the potential was. As an upperclassman, his numbers were better, but he is a touch undersized at 6-2, 220 pounds.

It’ll be interesting to see how he looks in a Pete Golding defense, but as a guy who’s known for endless energy and a solid tackler, Rebel fans shouldn’t be too concerned. He may or may not put up big numbers, but his effort and personality are something that is almost certain to draw fans in and could easily make him a fan favorite.

Monty Montgomery

This could easily be the biggest transfer the Rebels managed to pull in this off-season. Monty Montgomery, a Louisville transfer, is an undersized linebacker (5-11, 225) that many may have heard of. Despite the size, he was second on the team in total tackles (70), and fourth in sacks (six) during the 2022 season. A guy who plays extremely physically, he also managed to force four fumbles.

Expect Montgomery to play a huge role in a revamped defense under Golding. His system relies heavily on solid linebacker play, and Montgomery could be the answer Ole Miss desperately needs. In fact, he’s already drawn comparisons to former Rebel linebacker Chance Campbell. If that ends up being accurate, Ole Miss fans are sure to love him.

John Saunders

John Saunders should be a major difference-maker for the Rebels this season. He’s gone under the radar for many, but don’t expect that to slow him down. In fact, a transfer cornerback from Miami (OH), he’s simply swapping Oxford, OH, for Oxford, MS. Saunders was known as a tall, rangy corner that isn’t afraid to deliver big hits in his time with the RedHawks. However, he also showed the ability to play patiently enough in the secondary to be a solid cover corner.

There is one thing to keep in mind, though. With the transfer, he’ll be moving from cornerback to safety. The good news is that he seems more than comfortable with the move. In Ole Miss’ Grove Bowl spring game, he led the team in tackles with 13.5. But there is a chance it could take a bit of time for him to get used to SEC play. However, with good size and elite length, don’t expect that to be a major deterrent.

You can expect to hear his name a lot this season, so Rebel fans, learn it now.

Now keep in mind this isn’t a full list of the 23 transfers Kiffin brought in this off-season. It’s simply a list of a few names to know that could easily make a difference this season. We don’t know how things turn out for the Rebels this season, but Kiffin and company hit the portal hard to fill a few glaring gaps in the roster. These additions should be enough to excite Ole Miss fans for the upcoming season. Besides, with kickoff less than two months away, we should all be thankful, regardless of how it turns out.

 

Ole Miss transfer portal

Photo courtesy: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

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