OXFORD — We know what Ole Miss football will be doing on the first day of 2022. After that, there are plenty of questions.
In just about every way, 2021 was a rousing success for Ole Miss. The year opened with a Jan. 1 win over Indiana in the Outback Bowl, a precursor to a 10-2 season, top-10 finish and berth in the 2022 Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1.
But the team that Ole Miss fields in New Orleans (7:45 p.m., ESPN) will look drastically different than the team that will suit up on Sept. 3 when the Rebels open their 2022 season against Troy.
In celebration of the upcoming new year, here are 22 questions for Ole Miss football in 2022.
1. Who’s gonna play quarterback?
Matt Corral isn’t coming back. Is it Luke Altmyer? Is it someone from the transfer portal? Someone’s gotta do it.
2. Where will Corral be drafted?
Plenty of Ole Miss fans spent the last two decades rooting for the New York Giants because of Eli Manning. Will Corral sway a new generation of Mississippi NFL fans?
3. Is John Rhys Plumlee still a receiver?
He started at quarterback in 2019. He was a backup in 2020. He was a receiver in 2021. Does he have any shot at taking back the QB job now that Corral is leaving, or does he use another offseason to hone his pass-catching skills?
4. Will the whole year be about wooing Arch Manning?
I can answer this one now: yes. He’s the top quarterback and overall prospect in the Class of 2023. He’s considering Ole Miss. And his last name is Manning. The biggest question of the year is whether he makes the same choice as his grandpa, dad and uncle.
5. Will Lane Kiffin call plays?
Ole Miss is losing offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby. Will his replacement call plays, or will Kiffin go back to one of his strengths without Lebby to lean on?
6. Feature back or backs by committee?
Jerrion Ealy, Snoop Conner and Henry Parrish split carries this year. Will one feature back stand out next season, or is it another year of attacking defenses with variety?
7. Will there be receiver depth?
Braylon Sanders, Dontario Drummond and Jahcour Pearson will be gone. Will the younger players step up or is it going to be a thin year at receiver?
8. How does the tackle room shake out?
Left tackle Nick Broeker could go pro. If he’s gone, does Jeremy James move over from the right? Does a newcomer slide in? Do the Rebels try to find a blind-side protector in the portal?
9. How many portal adds play on offense?
In 2021, Ole Miss was all about defensive transfer portal players. In 2022, it might be about offense. The Rebels could use help at quarterback, running back, receiver and offensive line. How new is the offense, and how long does it take the chemistry to manifest?
10. Is the 3-2-6 here to stay?
Ole Miss adopted a 3-2-6 scheme for 2021 and it quickly turned the Rebels from one of the nation’s worst defenses to an above-average unit. Does Ole Miss stick with this scheme, or do Kiffin and D.J. Durkin opt for something that better suits the new roster?
11. Can Cedric Johnson replace Sam Williams?
Sam Williams set Ole Miss’ single-season sack record in 2021. Fellow edge rusher Cedric Johnson grew into a dominant role as well, but can he grow even more to make up for Williams’ absence in 2022?
12. Will the high-rated defensive linemen finally step up?
Demon Clowney was Ole Miss’ highest-rated recruit in 2020. Tywone Malone was the highest-rated recruit in 2021. Neither defensive lineman has done much of anything in Oxford. Will this be the year the talent gets unlocked?
13. Will Chance Campbell be back?
The Maryland transfer was Ole Miss’ best linebacker in 2021. He can come back for one last year if he wants, but will the NFL Draft be too attractive for him after a huge season?
14. Will there be a youth movement at linebacker?
With or without Campbell, Ole Miss will still need to replace linebackers Mark Robinson, Lakia Henry and MoMo Sanogo. Will veterans Ashanti Cistrunk and Austin Keys step up, or will freshmen and junior college transfers reinvigorate the room?
15. Who replaces Jake Springer?
The defense was night-and-day different with and without safety Jake Springer this season. Can someone replicate his value now that he’s leaving, or will the scheme be missing a key figure?
16. Who takes over at cornerback?
Jaylon Jones and Deane Leonard are gone. Do some of the interior cornerbacks, such as Tysheem Johnson, bump outside or will the Rebels’ 2021 and 2022 defensive back signees be called upon?
Big picture questions
17. What will the stadium experience be like?
Vaught-Hemingway Stadium will be under renovation in 2022. What will the gameday experience be and how ready will the stadium be for September?
18. Expect a hot start?
The Rebels’ first six games are against Troy, Central Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Tulsa, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. That’s a favorable start. Is 5-1 or 6-0 realistic, or will this team have too much growing to do with so many pieces being replaced?
19. How important is the bye week before Alabama?
Ole Miss will get two weeks to prepare for Alabama this season. Having to play nine weeks in a row before a bye will hurt, but will the extra rest and preparation mean much as the Rebels go for the upset?
20. A turkey-day turkey?
Ole Miss hasn’t won three Egg Bowls in a row since 2002-04. Can the Rebels pull it off on Thanksgiving Day in Oxford?
21. Is the SEC West is reach?
It’s going to be tough. Alabama’s still Alabama, but nearly every other team will either have a new coach or new quarterback. Can the Rebels get over the hump for their first trip to the SEC Championship?
22. Is this the year Lane Kiffin cashes in?
Kiffin spent three years at Alabama. He spent three years at Florida Atlantic. Heading into Year 3 in Oxford, does the trend continue? Is Kiffin willing to make a leap after another good year or is he ready to prove he can stay in one place for the long haul?
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or [email protected] Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Ole Miss football in 2022: Who will play quarterback?