3 things we learned from Week 1 of Ole Miss spring football practices

Nick Suss
Mississippi Clarion Ledger

OXFORD — For the first time since arriving in Oxford, Lane Kiffin is leading Ole Miss through spring football practices.

Ole Miss began spring practices Tuesday and held a second one Thursday. The Rebels were also supposed to practice Saturday in a session open to the public, but that session was canceled because of the threat of weather. 

It's hard to glean too much from two closed practices, but there were a few nuggets of wisdom to be picked from media sessions. Here are three things we learned from Ole Miss football's first week of spring practices. 

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1. It's the Snoop Conner show, for now

Ole Miss led the SEC in rushing last season behind the three-headed attack of Jerrion Ealy, Henry Parrish and Snoop Conner. Ealy will not participate in spring practices after an offseason shoulder surgery, though. And Conner revealed in an interview Thursday that Parrish hadn't been out on the field yet, but he's not expected to miss all of spring.

Mississippi running back Snoop Conner (24) scores a 1-yard touchdown against Mississippi State during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020, in Oxford, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Still, with Parrish and Ealy out, this can be an opportunity for Conner to get some extra reps. It could also be a chance for sophomore Kentrel Bullock to see some action. Bullock carried twice for 11 yards with Ealy absent in the Outback Bowl but otherwise only played on special teams as a freshman.

2. Competition has arrived

The biggest area Ole Miss was lacking in last season was defensive depth. A combination of injuries, transfers, COVID-19 cases and lack of bodies caused by previous years spent on NCAA probation made it tough for Ole Miss to field two units of defenders, especially in the secondary.

The reinforcements have arrived this spring. Ole Miss has 10 scholarship early-enrollees on defense, including eight in the defensive backfield. One, Demarko Williams, is injured and won't participate this spring. But that's offset by the return of transfer Deantre Prince, who played at Ole Miss in 2019, left in 2020 but returns in 2021.

"It breeds competition and competitiveness," senior safety Otis Reese said. "It makes everybody better. You're only as good as the people around you, the people in your group."

3. Don't expect new faces to stand out Day 1

No position group is expected to see as much turnover for Ole Miss as the defensive line. Signees Isaiah Iton and Jamond Gordon were ranked as the No. 1 and No. 2 junior college defensive line prospects in the country for the Class of 2021 and both early enrolled to participate in spring.

Kiffin said he's happy both are here, but he didn't seem too bullish about guaranteeing early playing time.

"They're out there," Kiffin said. "First day you're still just trying to line up. That's why it's great to be here in the spring. I think junior college kids when they don't (early enroll), they just kind of in the fall really struggle to have impact first years. They both have shown on film to be really talented players. That's why we recruited them. So we'll see."

Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or nsuss@gannett.com. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.