This 4-star quarterback from Utah will have some serious competition for his job in 2023
Oklahoma State’s Spencer Sanders and LSU’s Walker Howard committed to Ole Miss on back-to-back days
In the span of two days, Ole Miss added a pair of highly rated quarterbacks out of the NCAA transfer portal and created a loaded quarterback room under noted QB guru Lane Kiffin.
On Thursday, former Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders committed to coach Kiffin’s Rebels program.
That came after former LSU quarterback Walker Howard did the same on Wednesday.
What does that mean for Jaxson Dart, the Utah native and former four-star prospect who was the team’s starting quarterback last season?
While the redshirt freshman Howard will have four years of eligibility remaining, the redshirt senior Sanders will have just one.
It remains to be seen exactly how that impacts Dart, who will be a junior in 2023, though Ole Miss was in need of some scholarship quarterback depth after seeing its own attrition at the position this offseason.
Who is Spencer Sanders?
Sanders was a four-year starter at Oklahoma State, and his entrance into the transfer portal was one of the bigger surprises of the offseason.
He joined the Cowboys’ program in 2018 as a three-star prospect, and over the past four seasons as the program’s starter, he completed 61% of his passes for 9,553 yards, 67 touchdowns and 40 interceptions.
Sanders also ran for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns.
He was named the first-team All-Big 12 quarterback during his junior season — he led the conference in total offense and total offense per game in 2021 — and this past year, Sanders earned All-Big 12 honorable mention honors.
He finished his Oklahoma State career as the school’s second-winningest quarterback, with his 31 wins as the team’s starter just one short of Mason Rudolph’s record.
With only one season of eligibility remaining, it’s expected that Sanders will challenge for Ole Miss’ starting position.
“I like Lane Kiffin a lot,” Sanders told 247 Sports. “I like how he schemes his offense. I like how he runs his offense, how he spreads the ball out. He’s got tempo in the SEC as well. I love the play-action shots as well.
“They’ve got a really good running back flow, a great running game. All in all, too, I feel like it’s a good team. I’ve been watching the SEC for quite some time now, and I feel like that’s not a bad spot to be, especially for competing. I just want to compete and do the best I can and show the world what I can do in a different level.”
Who is Walker Howard?
Howard, meanwhile, has far less experience at the collegiate level, though he was a highly rated quarterback prospect coming out of high school.
In his only season at LSU last year, he played in two games and completed 2 of 4 passes for 7 yards in the team’s blowout bowl win over Purdue. He also ran for 33 yards on six carries.
Howard redshirted the season and has four years of eligibility remaining, according to the Lafayette Daily Advertiser.
He was rated the No. 5 quarterback in the 2022 recruiting class (and No. 40 overall) as a four-star prospect in 247 Sports’ composite rankings.
Howard also ranked No. 6 among the top quarterbacks available in the transfer portal this offseason in 247 Sports’ rankings.
How did Jaxson Dart end up as Ole Miss’ starting quarterback?
Dart, a former Corner Canyon and Roy High standout who was heavily recruited (his first offer came from BYU), started his college career at USC.
He was one of top available players in the transfer portal at this time last year, though, after he chose to leave USC after playing in six games (starting three) as a true freshman for the Trojans in the 2021 season.
While he visited BYU during his recruitment transfer process, he ultimately chose Ole Miss, then beat out Luke Altmyer for the Rebels’ starting job in 2022.
Dart completed 62.4% of his passes for 2,974 yards, 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions during the 2022 season, while also rushing for 614 yards and a touchdown.
Ole Miss won its first seven games last season and climbed as high as No. 7 in the Associated Press poll, but the Rebels finished the year losing five of six games and ending the season 8-5, including a Texas Bowl loss to Texas Tech.
Earlier this offseason, Altmyer transferred to Illinois.
Following the news of Howard’s transfer on Wednesday, another Ole Miss scholarship quarterback, Kinkead Dent, told 247 Sports he was entering the transfer portal.
What could the quarterback transfers mean for Jaxson Dart’s future?
With the addition of Sanders and Howard and the loss of Altmyer and Dent, that gives Ole Miss three scholarship quarterbacks.
If Dart were to stay at Ole Miss, it’s expected he would face competition again to retain the starting job, with Sanders likely to the toughest competitor for that spot in the 2023 season, considering his extensive experience.
If Dart were to seek transferring again, a new rule from the NCAA aimed at limiting the number of second-time transfers would likely require he sit out a year — he still has a redshirt season to use — unless he met certain requirements.
“First, a player can receive immediate eligibility if they have a physical injury or mental health condition that pushed them to transfer from a school,” CBS Sports’ Shehan Jeyarajah wrote. “Additionally, the NCAA will consider ‘exigent circumstances’ that could force a player to leave an institution — like sexual assault or abuse. No other factors will be considered, including academic considerations or playing time.”
Dart would be eligible to play immediately at another school if he graduated from Ole Miss and entered the portal as a graduate transfer, since the new rule only applies to undergraduate students.
The Clarion Ledger’s Blake Toppmeyer praised the work by Kiffin to bring in additional competition at the quarterback position after the 2022 season ended with a four-game losing streak.
“The arrival of transfers does not overthrow Dart as starter, but it raises the stakes for the incumbent. Consider spring practice the equivalent of a contested primary,” Toppmeyer wrote.
“By adding transfers of this caliber, Kiffin signaled that Ole Miss will not be complacent after a promising 2022 season fizzled.
“... By adding Howard and Sanders, Kiffin broadened Ole Miss’ chance for success. Either the transfers will effectively fuel Dart to elevate his game, or one of the newcomers will offer a higher ceiling and seize the reins.”