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Former Oklahoma State QB Spencer Sanders transfers to Ole Miss

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Ole Miss and Lane Kiffin scored big again on the transfer portal on Thursday, with former Oklahoma State All-Big 12 quarterback Spencer Sanders telling ESPN he would play for the Rebels next season.

“I fit in really well there with what they do on offense, their action game, the way they shoot deep down the field, Coach Kiffin’s mentality and his balance with a great running back like Quinshon Judkins,” Sanders said. “It’s just a very complete scheme.”

Sanders is the second quarterback announced in a week to join Ole Miss. Walker Howard, a former five-star recruit, announced Wednesday that he was transferring from LSU to Ole Miss. Jaxson Dart, who transferred last season to Ole Miss from USC, is the Rebels’ starting starting quarterback after throwing for 2,974 yards, 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2022.

“There’s always going to be someone you’re going to compete with, whether it’s at this level or the next,” said Sanders, a four-year starter who accounted for 85 career touchdowns at Oklahoma State. “It helps all of us – the competition – and I will be the oldest and do the best I can to help these guys even after I leave.”

Ole Miss lost backup quarterback Luke Altmyer to Illinois, so adding to the quarterback room this offseason was a crucial need for Kiffin. Howard has four years of eligibility left, so he sets up the Rebels for the future along with Dart, who has two years of eligibility left.

The team didn’t add a high school quarterback in the 2022 and 2023 classes, so Kiffin is counting on the transfer market to help build his quarterback room and now has a few options.

Sanders was one of the most coveted defenders available on the portal. Other schools that have shown strong interest include Auburn, UCLA, Baylor, BYU, Kentucky and Virginia Tech, he said. He also emphasized that there was no ill will towards the state of Oklahoma.

“I’m excited to make my chance in a league [SEC] that’s in a different category and I’m ready to see what it’s all about,” Sanders said. “I’ve had three different offensive coordinators, so it’s not like I’m against playing with new people or new setups. It’s also no disrespect to the state of Oklahoma. They raised me to be the quarterback I am now, and I’m grateful for that. It was time to move on and try something new.”

In the new world of the transfer portal, keeping great players is just as important as signing them. Judkins, who led the SEC with 1,565 rushing yards last season as a rookie, could have easily tested the waters at the gate, but he stayed put.

“You want to play with great players,” said Sanders. “It’s pretty obvious that they’ve managed to build their roster and retain their most talented players.”

Sanders, who had a 31-12 start at Oklahoma State, said he tore the AC joint in his throwing shoulder a month into the 2022 season and was never completely healthy after the injury. He said he re-injured his shoulder against Kansas State and missed three of Oklahoma State’s last five games. The Cowboys went 1-4 during that stretch.

“It was definitely the most painful season I’ve been through,” Sanders said. “There were times when I thought it was healing and then I would get hurt and be back to square one again. I did the best I could to play through the pain.”

Sanders’ best season came in 2021, when he was named first-team All-Big 12 and led the conference with 3,507 total yards (2,839 passing and 668 rushing). His all-round abilities particularly appealed to Kiffin, who uses his fullback frequently in the running game. Sanders has 18 career rushing touchdowns, but also threw 40 career interceptions.

Having seen other versatile quarterbacks move to different places and succeed (USC’s Caleb Williams, Oregon’s Bo Nix and LSU’s Jayden Daniels, to name a few), Sanders said he’s excited about the possibilities of the accelerated scheme and Kiffin high octane.

“I’ve been looking at their playbook, and the more I look at it, the more I like the leeway they give athletes to make plays,” Sanders said.

This is the second consecutive year that Kiffin has dived heavily into the transfer portal. This class, in addition to Sanders and Howard, also includes Washington forward Victor Curne, Memphis tight end Caden Prieskorn, Texas A&M receiver Chris Marshall, Louisiana Tech receiver Tre Harris and UAB forward Quincy McGee.