Kiffin coached the Rebels to a 5-5 record amid the pandemic-shortened season. As he prepares to begin his second season in Oxford, Miss., the 46-year-old has made a dangerously bold change that will greatly benefit the Rebels’ dangerous offense.
Lane Kiffin is giving quarterback John Rhys Plumlee snaps at receiver
Kiffin, wisely, doesn’t see the value in keeping someone as explosive as John Rhys Plumlee on the bench.
Plumlee, a quarterback by trade, threw only seven passes in backup duty behind Matt Corral last season. The Rebels used Plumlee, who ran for 1,023 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2019, as a receiver against Indiana in the Outback Bowl. The elusive dual-sport athlete — he also plays center field on the Rebels’ baseball team — responded with five catches and 73 yards in a 26-20 victory that day.
That performance could be a sign of things to come. According to 247 Sports, Kiffin said Plumlee, who stands 6 feet and weighs 200 pounds, will focus on playing slot receiver while in training camp. Elijah Moore, the Rebels’ slot receiver last year, is now on the New York Jets.
Corral, a potential first-round selection in next year’s NFL Draft, expressed excitement about having Plumlee play receiver.
“Him being in the slot solves a lot of work for us on the offense. He’s going to be in the right spot when I expect him to, and that’s how that chemistry is going to happen.”Matt Corral
The Rebels can only hope Plumlee torches Alabama’s defense the way Moore did last year. Moore hauled in 11 catches for 143 yards in the Rebels’ 63-48 loss to the Crimson Tide. Ole Miss tied Auburn for the most points any team has ever scored against a Nick Saban-led team at Alabama.
Kiffin can turn Plumlee into his new John Franklin III
No one is expecting Plumlee to become the unstoppable force that Moore became in Kiffin’s offense. The Rebels will likely need multiple receivers to total Moore’s 86 catches, 1,193 yards, and eight receiving touchdowns from a year ago.
But Kiffin at least has experience doing something similar before. Former Auburn quarterback John Franklin III transferred to Florida Atlantic in 2017 and joined Kiffin’s first Owls team. After Franklin played receiver at Auburn that spring, the Last Chance U star remained at that position upon switching schools.
Franklin hauled in seven catches for 95 yards and a touchdown that year. He also served as the Owls’ de facto backup quarterback in garbage time and rushed for 229 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries.
Two years later, Kiffin moved true freshman quarterback Javion Posey to receiver in training camp. Posey, who temporarily emerged as the Owls’ starting quarterback in 2020, caught a touchdown in FAU’s Boca Raton Bowl victory to end the 2019 season. By that point, however, Kiffin had already left the program and taken over at Ole Miss.
Plumlee could also eventually follow in D’Eriq King’s footsteps
No one would fault Kiffin for playing Plumlee at receiver this year before moving him back to quarterback in 2022, especially if Corral leaves for the NFL. D’Eriq King, the Miami Hurricanes’ star quarterback, did something similar when he played at the University of Houston.
King, a dynamic dual-threat weapon, saw action at quarterback and receiver during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. He hauled in 58 catches for 492 yards and three scores during that span. The Cougars named him the starting quarterback midway through the 2017 season, and he’s remained at the position since.
Again, we’re not expecting Plumlee to instantly become an All-American slot receiver. But don’t be surprised if he’s the missing piece the Rebels need to take down the Crimson Tide on October 2 en route to eventually winning the SEC West Division.
Look at it this way. For all of the crazy things Kiffin has endured, from Al Davis through a tarmac firing, would a quarterback-turned-receiver helping defeat Alabama really be so surprising?