Troy University quarterback Gunnar Watson (18) grasps the ball after the snap.

Troy Vs Eastern Kentucky

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No. 21 Ole Miss unsettled as opener with Troy arrives

Ole Miss still hasn’t named a starting quarterback.

But Troy has.

The No. 21 Rebels are still searching for the successor to Matt Corral as they prepare to host the Trojans in the season opener for both teams Saturday afternoon.

Corral helped lead Ole Miss to its first 10-win regular season in school history last season before moving on to the Carolina Panthers as a third-round draft choice.

The battle to start this season has been between USC transfer Jaxson Dart and Luke Altmyer, who was a backup as a freshman last season and replaced an injured Corral in the Rebels’ Sugar Bowl loss to Baylor in January.

Ole Miss finished preseason camp with a “mock game” but, when the Rebels entered game week, head coach Lane Kiffin still didn’t have a decision.

“We haven’t even discussed a timeline as coaches because no one has emerged at all,” Kiffin said.

Kiffin said that once he makes a decision he expects to stick with that player and not play both against the FCS Trojans, but added that was “not etched in stone.”

Ole Miss was one of the most active teams in the country in utilizing the transfer portal during the offseason.

The presence of so many transfers has made it challenging for Kiffin to anticipate what to expect from his third Rebels team.

“This one’s a wild card because we’ve just got so many new players,” Kiffin said. “It’s constant coaching every day because everything is new to them. Usually your new players are coming from high school and 90 percent of them aren’t going to play, but we’ve got guys starting where everything is a first for them.”

Troy first-year coach Jon Sumrall had a complex quarterback competition of his own, but on Monday he named redshirt junior Gunnar Watson to start against Ole Miss.

Watson, a part-time starter for the Tronas each of the last two seasons, competed with transfer Peter Costelli and true freshman Tucker Kilcrease before former Western Kentucky starter Jarret Doege was an 11th-hour addition through the transfer portal.

“There’s something about having been through the battle and been through the fire,” Sumrall said. “We’re going to roll out with Gunnar to start the game. Doesn’t mean other guys won’t play, but Gunnar’s earned the opportunity to lead this team into Game 1 as a starter.”

Kiffin said it’s “challenging” preparing to open a season against a team with a new coaching staff. Sumrall was a defensive assistant at Kentucky for the last three seasons.

Sumrall was an assistant at Troy for three consecutive winnings seasons under Neal Brown from 2015-17. He takes over a program that had a losing record each of the last three seasons, leading to Chip Lindsey’s firing.

“We have our work cut out for us but we’re excited for the opportunity,” Sumrall said of facing the Rebels. “We get to go play in a great environment against a really high quality opponent, a ranked opponent, and a team that has won a lot of games the last couple of years.”

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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