Lane Kiffin would end up taking over as the Ole Miss head coach on December 9, 2019. Since taking over the job the Ole Miss program has thrived under Kiffin as if he was meant to be the coach at Ole Miss. Yet the road for both Kiffin and the Ole Miss program has not gone without hardships as both would have to get past difficult moments to get to where they are now.
Before the job at Ole Miss, Kiffin would gain an abundance of experience after being in multiple roles. From 2005-2006 he was the offensive coordinator for USC where he helped lead the offense to have two 1,000 yard rushers and receivers all while contributing to the 23-3 record USC had. Then from 2007-2008, he was hired as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders yet would be fired after his first season where he finished with a 4-12 record. In 2009 Kiffin took the job as the head coach of Tennessee and led the team to a 7-6 record along with increasing their offensive output by 60%. Following that season Kiffin would be offered a job to go back to USC but this time as the head coach from 2010-2013.
After being fired in the middle of the 2013 USC season, Kiffin would go on to accept the job as an offensive coordinator under Alabama head coach Nick Saban. Kiffin would find success helping to lead the offense to a 12-1 season his first year there, but losing in the playoff game. In his second year they would again go 12-1, but would end up winning the semifinal playoff game and go on to beat Clemson in the National Championship Game. Kiffin’s success with the Alabama offense would continue in his third year there with the team going 13-0 in the regular season but losing in the National Championship this time.
His time under Saban would help change Kiffin’s perspective on coaching, before he was just focused on getting the players drafted instead of helping them grow as individuals but changed his philosophy with his time spent at Alabama. With now knowing where he went wrong before Kiffin would try his luck as a head coach again but not at Ole Miss yet. Instead, it was at Florida Atlantic. Before Kiffin’s arrival there, the Owls had gone 3-9 in the three seasons prior. His first season there they went 10-3 and won the Conference USA Championship for the first time. In 2018 it was not as great with a 5-7 record, but in 2019 he would lead the team to a bounce-back as they finished 10-3 again and won the league championship once again.
For Ole Miss from 2004-2019, they had struggled with finding the head coach that could elevate their system. To start the 2005 season the school would go on to hire Ed Orgeron who found limited success as the team finished with a record of 3-8 and its offense was ranked 111 out of 117. The next season he would finish 4-8, and in his last year would finish 3-9. The Rebels would end up firing Orgeron and hire Houston Nutt, who would lead the team to back-to-back winning seasons and bowl appearances. Yet when the 2010 and 2011 seasons came he had back-to-back losing seasons and was in the middle of a scandal as his assistants manipulated ACT scores of the teams’ players so they would be eligible to play. Nutt would then be replaced with Hugh Freeze, Freeze would go on to have an adequate amount of success from 2012-2016 having an overall record of 35-19. In 2016 Freeze would be fired after the university found a “pattern of personal misconduct”. It would then be Matt Luke who took over the role but in 2019 he was fired with a losing record of 15-21 over the three seasons.
The constant coaching switch and the constant losing against rivals like Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M had started to wear on the players and the program. Not only this but whenever Ole Miss would have a winning season, the next season they would have a losing season and could not find continuity. The team needed someone with a creative personality to light a spark back in the team but someone who had also shown recent success, this candidate that matched both would be Lane Kiffin.
In Kiffin’s first year at Ole Miss he sparked a connection with quarterback Matt Corral. In the 2019 season prior to Kiffin’s arrival, the Rebels offense was putting up an average of 26.58 points per game (319 total), an average of 445.3 yards per game, and Corral completed only 186 passes of 332 attempts and would only find the end zone through the air six times.
Kiffin would end up turning the offense into a unit that averaged 39.20 points per game (392 total), an average of 555.5 yards per game, and Corral would end up seeing his completions increase as well to 231 out of 326 attempts and had 29 passing touchdowns. Yet the defense did not have the same success as they could not complement the offense as they allowed 38.30 points per game and 50 total touchdowns. The defensive struggles in addition to his first year being in the middle of a pandemic did not make things completely favorable yet they were able to finish the season 5-5 with a win over Indiana in the Outback Bowl. The games they lost in 2020 to teams like Alabama, LSU, and Auburn were closer scores than they had been in the 2017-2019 seasons which was already a promising outlook. The 2021 season would be the real test, could Kiffin lead the Rebels to a back-to-back .500 and above season?
The answer to that through 11 weeks of the 2021 college football season is yes. The Rebels currently sit at an 8-2 record, their wins being over Louisville, Appalachian State, Tulane, Liberty, and even SEC rivals Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU, and Auburn that the team had struggled against in the past. The two losses on the other hand would be against the rivals they still need to beat in Alabama and Auburn.
Another encouraging sign through the ten games is that the Rebels have stayed consistent with the offensive production from 2020 and have improved on defense. So far the offense has an average of 36.90 points per game, an average of 522.2 yards per game, and have 47 touchdowns while Corral is completing 66.7% of his passes for 17 touchdowns and only two interceptions. With that the offense is currently ranked third in the nation behind Ohio State and Pittsburgh.The defense has shown improvement by only allowing 26.20 points per game and total yardage of 4,272 which has held off opponents just enough to secure the win unlike in previous years.
The dynamic new style of coaching Lane Kiffin has brought to the Ole Miss team truly has turned the team around on both offense and defense. Kiffin has proved why he was the perfect hire and will only continue to do so as he makes the Rebels an attractive place for top recruits as well. This is only the start of what should be a long era for Kiffin at Ole Miss.
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