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OXFORD, Miss. — For the first time in at least a month, the Ole Miss football team is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak.
Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said during his press conference on Wednesday that a number of players are out but refused divulge how many will miss time or reveal specific players. Ole Miss had not had a positive case in the last four weeks — dating back to the final week of fall camp.
Ole Miss is scheduled to play Arkansas in Fayetteville Saturday. Kiffin said as of Wednesday that the game can still be played based off the number of players Ole Miss has available.
However, Ole Miss will go through another round of testing before the game, which could impact that answer.
“It’s very difficult moving people around,” Kiffin said. “We’re beat up, too, from a very high-play count, intense game against a great team Saturday. So we are not in a great situation number-wise at all.”
According to the school-wide Ole Miss COVID-19 dashboard, which was last updated Wednesday at 8 a.m., there are 19 active student cases of COVID-19 across the entire Ole Miss student body. There were four new cases reported Monday and two new cases reported Tuesday.
The SEC requires that a team have a minimum of 53 scholarship players available before a game can be canceled, postponed or forfeited. For most schools, that means up to 32 scholarship players can be sidelined because of COVID-19, contact tracing or general injuries.
Kiffin said he thinks he knows who Ole Miss’ outbreak can be traced back to, but he’s pretty sure the outbreak didn’t begin within Ole Miss’ facilities. Kiffin said he first addressed the team about these issues Monday, meaning the outbreak was likely detected in the days after Ole Miss’ 63-48 loss against Alabama on Saturday.
“I said Monday in our first meeting that this just got real,” Kiffin said. “Any time you talk about things it doesn’t hit home until it happens to you. Now they’re seeing it. They’re seeing depth charts move and people have to change positions and different things. I hope it really was another reminder. It only takes one person to really screw it up.”
Ole Miss had a number of COVID-19 cases in fall camp. The Rebels’ secondary and offensive line room were hit hardest, leading to some position shuffling and depth concerns.
Ole Miss (1-2) is slated for kickoff against Arkansas at 2:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN2.
Follow Nick Suss @nicksuss on Twitter.