OXFORD — Lane Kiffin has never experienced anything like this.
No. 15 Ole Miss (6-2) hosts Liberty (7-2) on Saturday (11 a.m., SEC Network) in a game where Kiffin will be lucky if half of his starting offensive players are available.
Speaking on the SEC coaches' teleconference Wednesday, the second-year Rebels coach revealed that nine of the 11 players who started on offense in the first game of the year against Louisville were unavailable at practice Wednesday.
"I've never seen anything like this," Kiffin said. "It does present a good challenge for us in game planning and calling plays during games."
Kiffin isn't particularly forthcoming when it comes to injuries, so the list of which nine players are injured isn't public. But a lot of the names are easy to figure out.
Right guard Ben Brown is out for the season. Receivers Jonathan Mingo and Braylon Sanders and tight end Chase Rogers have missed multiple games in a row. Quarterback Matt Corral has been playing through an ankle injury. Running back Jerrion Ealy missed a game earlier this season with an injury. Interior offensive linemen Caleb Warren and Orlando Umana have played through pain as well.
When asked how many of the nine injured players he expects to be able to play through the pain Saturday, Kiffin said two or three.
There are a number of roadblocks to playing through injury, according to Kiffin. There's the issue of medical clearance, each individual player's pain tolerance and the consideration of how further injury could affect a player's future.
"Probably when I was younger I would've pushed guys a little more to play," Kiffin said. "We're not, especially with guys like Braylon that have a very bright NFL future, erring on the side of them being safer. Which is probably unique in college football. I just feel I owe it to the players that way."
Depth has been a concern for Ole Miss dating back to the start of preseason practice in August. Kiffin indicated the plan this week is to simplify the offense and try to get younger, less experienced players onto the field to take advantage of their talents more.
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Ole Miss football has 9 of 11 offensive starters unable to practice