ATLANTA (AP) — Three weeks into the season, No. 20 Ole Miss is still sorting things out at quarterback.
Maybe Saturday’s game at Georgia Tech will provide some clarity.
Luke Altmyer started last weekend against Central Arkansas but went down with an upper-body injury. He appears fully recovered and should be able to go against the Yellow Jackets.
Ole Miss (2-0) also has Southern Cal transfer Jaxson Dart, who started the season-opening victory over Troy but opened the door for Altmyer with a lackluster performance.
Coach Lane Kiffin wasn’t saying who will take the first snap in Atlanta.
“The competition is wide open,” he said, “so I can see both guys playing.”
Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins said it doesn’t really matter who starts for Ole Miss.
“They’re an explosive offense,” he said. “Both quarterbacks are very, very talented.”
There are no questions about Georgia Tech’s quarterback.
Not yet, anyway.
Jeff Sims is considered the key to the Yellow Jackets (1-1) improving on three straight three-win seasons, which have led to plenty of speculation about Collins’ future.
Sims is off to a sluggish start, throwing a pick in each of the first two games. He completed just 8 of 17 passes for 100 yards in last week’s 35-17 win over FCS school Western Carolina, which snapped a seven-game losing streak over the past two seasons for Georgia Tech.
Collins said he’s pleased with Sims’ development, pointing out that the Yellow Jackets were focused on establishing the running game against the Catamounts.
“Jeff did a nice job of getting us into the proper run plays,” Collins said. “Now, there’s going to be times when he’s going to have to throw for us to win.”
Georgia Tech desperately needs a few signature wins to bolster its fortunes.
The Yellow Jackets are 1-9 against Top 25 opponents during Collins’ tenure, including a 41-10 loss to Clemson in the opener. .
“There’s a lot to clean up, a lot to work on,” Collins said. “We understand the challenge that we have.”
The Ole Miss defense, relying heavily on newcomers, is off to a hot start, albeit against weak competition.
Kiffin’s team has allowed 13 points through two games, the fewest allowed to start a season since the 1991 unit surrendered just three points at this point.
Ole Miss ranks in the top 10 nationally in sacks per game (4.0) and forced turnovers (six).
JUST FOR KICKS
The kicking game has been an issue for Collins, and nothing seems to have changed in the first two games.
Jude Kelley has made only one field goal in three attempts, missing a 25-yarder against Western Carolina.
Collins isn’t planning any chances.
“Jude has hit some good ones,” the coach said. “We’ve got to continue to build on that consistency with snaps, holds, ball placement, all those things kind of factor into it. But I’ve got tremendous confidence in Jude.”
Dontae Smith led Georgia Tech’s running game against Western Carolina, gaining 102 yards on just 11 carries and scoring three touchdowns.
“I’m really proud of the way he played,” Collins said.
The Yellow Jackets will need another strong performance on the ground to keep Ole Miss’ fast-paced offense off the field.
All those new players for Ole Miss — and 36 have made their debuts already — are making their first road trip.
It’s yet another new experience for a team that had a huge haul in the transfer portal.
“This transfer thing, there’s good and bad,” Kiffin said. “Everything’s new. So now I’ve got to go on the road with all these guys that have never been on the road with us, and the challenges that come with that. It’ll be a very big test for us.”
RETURN TO THE FLATS
One of the Ole Miss newcomers is defensive end Jared Ivey, who played two seasons for the Yellow Jackets.
Ivey appeared in 20 games during his time in Atlanta, including 13 starts. He’s now a backup for the Rebels.
“It was really just a personal decision. No shade at all,” Ivey said of his decision to transfer. “I loved my time at Tech, made unbelievable connections and relationships But I just felt like I could find a better situation for myself somewhere else.”
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963
AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Montgomery, Alabama, contributed to this report.
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