Lane Kiffin is transfer portal king, but retaining top Ole Miss football signees a challenge

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OXFORD — Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss football put the finishing touches on a deceptively nice recruiting class on National Signing Day.

The group ranked 27th nationally in the 247Sports Composite as of Wednesday afternoon, but some of that can be attributed to its small size. Only 15 high school and junior college prospects signed, the smallest group in the SEC. That doesn't play well with the 247Sports Composite formula.

The quality of players is consistent with what Kiffin has brought in since his arrival. Five-star LB Suntarine Perkins is the Rebels' highest-ranked signee since Shea Patterson and Greg Little in 2016. Two other top 150 prospects and six four-star prospects are included, too.

That's great. But the truth of our transfer portal reality dictates that this is only a first step.

"Eventually, when that guy plays good, you have to recruit him to stay," Kiffin said Wednesday. "When the (transfer portal) window closes and we don't lose significant players in the window, it's like we're celebrating keeping our own players that weren't even in the portal. We're just keeping them from going other places because it is a constant battle."

Two of the Rebels' top three 2022 signees will be playing elsewhere next season, following Davison Igbinosun's announcement that he's transferring to Ohio State after a strong freshman year. Jaron Willis, the Rebels' No. 3 signee, is South Carolina bound.

The story is similar when looking at the top three players in Kiffin's previous two classes. Four of them are no longer on the Rebels' roster.

That's not a criticism of Kiffin – merely an acknowledgment of the challenge he's facing. The Rebels also fought off interest for star freshman running back Quinshon Judkins this offseason, Kiffin said. He was never in the portal.

ADDITIONS:Ole Miss football recruiting class 2023: Meet Lane Kiffin's National Signing Day additions

QBs:Lane Kiffin explains why Ole Miss football added QBs Spencer Sanders, Walker Howard

GRADES:How we graded Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss football in transfer portal by position for 2023 so far

So how can Ole Miss improve its retention rate? Kiffin is still trying to figure that out.

"I think it's gotten really complicated," he said. "It might be easier sometimes if you don't look at analytics and try to figure it all out ... Now, in my opinion, you have to look at everything. Where's the guy from? What's his personality? Is he the type that is more apt to transfer? You've gotta weigh all the things that come with it."

Certainly, Ole Miss has benefitted from this too. Fewer programs are as bold or prolific with their transfer portal movements. The reason why it's not fair to judge the Rebels' high school recruiting class on size is because Ole Miss provides much of the requisite bulk with transfer additions.

There are 13 of them this year (so far), among them a former five-star wideout and two blue-chip quarterbacks to join last year's transfer quarterback, Jaxson Dart.

Ole Miss' transfer class ranked second last cycle and sits 13th this year, according to 247Sports. Racking up big-time transfer imports, while hanging onto the successful high school prospects, requires coaches to walk the thinnest of lines.

Kiffin, alongside his peers, is going to try.

David Eckert covers Ole Miss for the Clarion Ledger. Email him at or reach him on Twitter @davideckert98.

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Lane Kiffin: Ole Miss wins transfer portal but losing some top signees