Ole Miss fans, we have a quarterback battle on our hands in Oxford for the second year in a row. Just over 24 hours after former LSU quarterback Walker Howard announced his commitment to transfer and join the Rebels, former Oklahoma State starter Spencer Sanders has done the same.
Over the span of one earthly rotation, the Ole Miss quarterback room went from one Jaxson Dart and a whole lot of question marks to having three legitimate Power 5-level quarterbacks. Sanders arrives as a multi-year starter for a Big 12 team, that, if you’ll remember, was about six inches from reaching the College Football Playoff in 2021.
Walker Howard arrives as a player who — despite being the third quarterback at LSU behind Jayden Daniels and Garrett Nussmeier — was highly sought after out of high school, especially by Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss. However, we’re going to put Howard to the side for just a moment, because although he and 2024 4-star QB commit Demond Williams are widely considered the future of the position for Lane Kiffin, Dart and Sanders are the now.
So what does Spencer Sanders’ arrival spell out for Jaxson Dart? Let’s get into that.
Last year, it was Jaxson Dart on the other side of this coin as the fresh transfer, with Luke Altmyer in Dart’s current position. Altmyer is now at Illinois, but last year’s battle illustrates that Dart is no stranger to the environment he now finds himself in. I fully expect Dart, who showed marked improvement in each and every game he played in 2022, bar perhaps the LSU game, to go out in spring practices to prove not only why he won the job in 2022, but why he is going to keep it in 2023.
There’s speculation that should he not win the starting job, Spencer Sanders may be able to use his post-graduate transfer to leave Ole Miss given he won’t graduate until the summer, but until that’s confirmed it’s not really worth thinking about. Assuming that Dart is your QB1 and Sanders is still at Ole Miss in the fall, it’s not as if Sanders won’t see the field.
Something that Ole Miss had a bit of an issue with in 2022, really exemplified in the Texas Bowl against Texas Tech, was the amount of hits Jaxson Dart takes. He is a very tough player, and much like his predecessor Matt Corral, seeks out contact, for better or worse. Having the big bodied Spencer Sanders there to run some of the zone reads and things like that allows Dart to stay closer to 100% for longer, and the closer to 100% Jaxson Dart is, the closer to winning football games Ole Miss is.
There’s a common saying amongst football people that if you have two quarterbacks, you have none, but that’s not entirely true. Ole Miss has actually successfully executed something similar to a potential Dart/Sanders rotation before. In 2012, 2013 and 2014, Ole Miss had a starter in Bo Wallace and a backup in Barry Brunetti. Brunetti would often come in for designed options, as well as other moments, but long story short he was a situational player. Ole Miss went 24-13 in those three years, including a win over Alabama in 2014.
It’s not a very typical approach, but it could work if it’s done correctly. If there’s one coach you’d trust to correctly run an offensive rotation, it’s gotta be Lane Kiffin.