What I liked — and didn't like — from Ole Miss football in spring game | Toppmeyer

Blake Toppmeyer

Matt Corral’s performance in the Grove Bowl on Saturday will only increase the preseason hype for the Rebels’ starting quarterback.

Corral delivered a steadyhanded outing throughout the spring game, while the defense teased the possibility of improvement.

Here’s my final assessment:

What I liked: If SEC coaches conducted a preseason draft of the talent within the league, Corral might be the first quarterback selected. He has an NFL-caliber arm and displayed it Saturday from the opening snap, when he connected with Braylon Sanders on a deep pass.

Asked during the television broadcast what Corral needs to do to improve this season, coach Lane Kiffin joked that he needs to “throw the ball to our guys,” a reference to Corral’s 14 interceptions last season.

No issue there Saturday.

Corral didn’t have any turnovers and completed 12 of 19 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns.

The starting defense held its own in spurts, while the second-string defense intercepted Kinkead Dent three times. The defensive units also did a nice job pressuring the quarterbacks.

Sanders caught four passes for 135 yards in an audition to be Corral's top target following Elijah Moore’s departure.

“I trust him a lot,” Corral said of Sanders during the TV broadcast.

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What I didn’t like: The starting defense put up little resistance against the run, allowing walk-on Jakwaize Walker to dart through holes for steady gains.

Backup quarterbacks Dent and Luke Altmyer, a four-star January enrollee, struggled, raising questions about Ole Miss’ quarterback depth if John Rhys Plumlee converts to another position.

Quotable: “We weren't that good last year – we're not afraid to say it – but this year we're going to definitely be turning a lot of heads." – Linebacker Jacquez Jones, on the defense

Game ball: Jakwaize Walker. Most of the top running backs didn’t play, and Walker seized his opportunity with the first-team offense, piling up 75 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries.

Lingering question: Will the defense play to a serviceable level? Considering how good the Ole Miss offense is, the Rebels can cause trouble for the SEC West if the defense at least improves from lousy to average.

Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.