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Home ยป Heisman Hype?: Hold Your Horses On Ole Miss' Jaxson Dart – Sports Illustrated

Heisman Hype?: Hold Your Horses On Ole Miss' Jaxson Dart – Sports Illustrated

Jaxson Dart has yet to take a snap while donning the Ole Miss uniform, yet it hasn't stopped fans and websites from giving him the Hollywood treatment. 
Dart, who transferred to Oxford after spending a season at USC, has already been compared to Rebels' great Matt Corral. Some believe that in an offense built by Lane Kiffin, he's an early Heisman contender
That's not the way Dart is looking at his time this spring. The job technically isn't his yet. He's auditioning for the part of quarterback along with Luke Altmyer. 
"If you would've told me that my first year of college would've turned out this way, I would've told you you were crazy," Dart said in his first media appearance with the Rebels. "It's been quite a whirlwind but I'm thankful for where I'm at."
Quarterback battles are nothing new to Dart. Last season under Clay Helton, the then-freshman split reps with veteran Kedon Slovis inside the Pac-12. Helton was fired two weeks into the year and Slovis suffered an injury before Week 3.
Dart took first-team reps and impressed. He likely would have been the starter full-time if not for having his own ailments. In his first start, Dart suffered a knee injury that sidelined him for several weeks. 
Even when he returned to the starting role, he wasn't feeling like himself down the stretch. 
"I only got to have half of a quarter where I was actually really healthy and show what I'm capable of," Dart said. "I hurt my knee against Washington State and even when I came back I wasn't 100%. There are some things with my legs that I wasn't really even able to showcase."
Slovis transferred to Pitt for his final season. Dart seemed to be the front-runner to be the next Trojan great under new coach Lincoln Riley. Of course, Riley has other plans from the get-go, regardless of what was said in his introductory press conference. 
Dart elected to transfer before it was announced that Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams would be joining his Sooners' coach in La La Land. Williams, the top quarterback of the 2021 class, made it clear that the Trojans were always the top choice. 
On paper, Dart did enough to warrant the starting role. In six games, he threw for 1,353 yards and nine touchdowns. When asked why come to Ole Miss, he said it was partially due to Kiffin's offensive style. 
The other was because of the conference and its level of competition.
"There are some games in some conferences when you can just have better athletes than another team and you can just outplay them because you have better athletes," Dart said. "With this it's more about scheme and you have to schematically beat them and you have to be smarter than them because they have just as good of players as you do." 
Ole Miss, which has been dubbed "Transfer U" of 2022, won big with Dart. It also added USC tight end, Michael Trigg, TCU running back Zach Evans, Western Kentucky's offensive tackle Mason Brooks and Mississippi State receiver Malik Heath. 
Dart is the selling point for the Rebels. After Corral led Ole Miss to its first 10-win regular season in program history, Kiffin isn't looking for regression. 
That starts in practice with both Dart and Altmyer. Before the Grove Bowl in two weeks, the third-year coach is looking for both gunslingers to limit the turnovers. Altmyer threw a pair of interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown in the Sugar Bowl against Baylor. 
"We've got to take care of the ball better, especially when we push the ball downfield," Kiffin said earlier this week. "There are too many interceptions. But this has been an exciting competition."
Dart's looking at the smaller picture this spring. He wants to improve his footwork and release of the ball to help with timing. He believes Rebels' quarterback coach Charlie Weis Jr. has helped take the load off the shoulders. 
For now, Dart's process is like a three-step program. Step 1 is to win the starting job. Step 2 is to win football games to keep.
Step 3? Maybe that's when the Heisman talks come into play. 
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