What a difference a year makes. Last season, Ole Miss football had a quarterback room of Jaxson Dart, a transfer from USC, and second-year passer Luke Altmyer, a former four-star. Now, Ole Miss has Dart, Oklahoma State transfer Spencer Sanders, and LSU transfer Walker Howard.
Outside of Dart and Altmyer, there was no one on the roster who would have been able to shoulder the load of a starting job in 2022. So that made Dart even that much more valuable to the offense.
Fans got a sneak peek at what Altmyer could bring to the table the year before in the Sugar Bowl against Baylor when Matt Corral went down with an injury. He had an OK game, but threw two interceptions to just one touchdown pass and led the usually-explosive Rebel offense to a measly seven points in a loss.
So if Dart got injured last season, Ole Miss would likely be in trouble.
But he didn’t, and he had a decent year, passing for 2,974 yards and 20 touchdowns but he did have 11 interceptions and completed around 62 percent of his throws.
Simply put, Ole Miss needs him to be better.
Dart is the key to Ole Miss football success in 2023
Lane Kiffin went out and brought in two transfers to add to a solid quarterback room, but I don’t think he brought in Sanders to truly steal the job from Dart. Sure, Sanders was solid at Oklahoma State and has plenty of experience, but it’s fairly obvious that he has a limited ceiling and Dart has more untapped potential.
Kiffin brought Sanders in to push him and make him a better quarterback. Could Sanders still win the job? Absolutely, if Dart doesn’t live up to expectations, he very well could.
But I don’t see that happening.
That is, unless Dart doesn’t improve this offseason.
If Ole Miss wants to compete in the SEC or make a New Year’s Six bowl like I believe it’s capable of doing, Dart needs to be a more potent passer. He needs to be somewhere in the 3,500-yard passing range with 25-30 touchdowns and under 10 interceptions. I think that’s possible, but it’s going to take a big offseason for him.
The additions of Sanders and Walker should help him reach that high level of play.
At least if he doesn’t live up to those expectations, Kiffin has options.