Ole Miss football, Lane Kiffin finalize staff changes
OXFORD, Miss. (Ole Miss Athletics) – Ole Miss head football coach Lane Kiffin finalized several staff changes Monday, including four new hires.
Charlie Weis Jr. has been named the new co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Rebels. Another co-offensive coordinator position will be announced at a later date.
After helping facilitate the turnaround of one of the most improved defenses in the country, Chris Partridge remains as Ole Miss’ co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach, while Chris Kiffin returns to Oxford for his second stint with the Rebels and will serve as co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.
Marquel Blackwell comes to Ole Miss as running backs coach after working in the same role at Houston during the 2021 season. Kiffin has also added Nick Savage as the Rebels’ new head football strength and conditioning coach.
In addition, wide receivers coach Derrick Nix, who just wrapped up his 14th season on the Ole Miss sidelines, has been elevated to assistant head coach.
“I’m excited about the direction of our program with these new hires and role changes,” said Kiffin, who led the Rebels to a 10-win season and Sugar Bowl berth in the fall. “The experience, familiarity and track record of success with these new coaches will only strengthen our staff chemistry and continuity. In addition, I look forward to seeing some of our current coaches take on increased leadership roles after helping us guide this team to record-breaking success in our first two seasons here.”
Weis Jr. joins the Rebels after two seasons as the offensive coordinator at South Florida. At USF, Weis helped running back Jaren Mangham rush for a team-leading 671 yards and 15 touchdowns. His 15 touchdowns ranked third in the league and tied for second all-time in USF single-season history with Marlon Mack (2016).
Prior to South Florida, Weis Jr. spent the previous two seasons as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Kiffin at FAU, where he helped lead the Owls to the 2019 Conference USA Championship and offenses that ranked in the top 20 in scoring and total offense.
Weis’ 2019 FAU offense ranked 14th nationally in scoring (36.4 ppg) and 27th in total offense (448.6 ypg). Sophomore quarterback Chris Robinson ranked sixth nationally in passing yards and 16th in passing touchdowns, while tight end Harrison Bryant won the Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end and was a unanimous first team All-American.
Weis’ 2018 Owl offense ranked 14th nationally in total offense (478.8 ypg) and 13th in rushing (241.8 ypg) as running back Devin Singletary finished 11th nationally in rushing yards (1,348) and yards per game (112.3 ypg) and second with 22 rushing touchdowns.
Prior to arriving at FAU, Weis had stops with two NFL organizations, the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots, and three other universities, including Alabama, Kansas and Florida.
Since arriving in 2020, Partridge has helped turn around a Rebel defense that became a strong suit during Ole Miss’ 2021 campaign. The Rebels ranked as the fourth most-improved defense in the FBS, allowing 13.6 less points this season compared to 2020.
The Ole Miss defense tallied four shutout halves this year (Louisville [first half], Tulane [second half], Liberty [first half] and Texas A&M [first half]). Prior to this season, Ole Miss had only played three shutout halves in the previous five seasons, spanning 58 games. The four shutouts are the most in a single season since the Rebels tallied five such occurrences in 2014.
In 2021, Partridge’s defense tallied 39 total team sacks, the second-most in program history. Sam Williams tied for fifth in the FBS with 12.5 sacks in 2021, the Ole Miss modern-day school record for sacks in a season. Williams had at least one sack in nine of the Rebels’ 13 games this season.
Chris Kiffin, a finalist for the 2017 Broyles Award, returns to Oxford after a four-year stint in the NFL with both the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns.
As a pass rush specialist coach with the 49ers in 2019, helped develop DE Nick Bosa, who was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after recording nine sacks. In addition, San Francisco led the league in forced fumbles and passing yards per game.
Prior to the 49ers, Kiffin served as co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach for his brother at FAU in 2017. He helped the Owls finish second in the nation with 20 interceptions. Linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair lead Conference USA in tackles (147) and set FAU’s career total tackles mark (354).
Kiffin served as the Rebels’ defensive line coach and defensive recruiting coordinator from 2012 until 2016.
In 2015, the Rebels ranked top three among SEC teams in tackles for loss (8.1/game – 7th in NCAA), interceptions (15 – t23rd in NCAA) and takeaways (23 – t38th in NCAA). Kiffin’s prized pupils included Hornung Award finalist and first team All-American Robert Nkemdiche, who was taken in the first round (29th overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals.
He was tabbed the 2013 National Recruiter of the Year by Scout.com after helping Ole Miss land a top-five signing class. He was also tabbed one of the nation’s top 50 recruiters by 247Sports and has helped the Rebels land three more top-15 classes since then, including the 2016 haul that ranked as high as No. 4 by ESPN.com.
Blackwell comes to Ole Miss after spending the last two years at Houston, in which he served as running backs coach in 2021 and co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2020.
Freshman running back Alton McCaskill thrived under Blackwell’s guidance in 2021. McCaskill led all true freshmen and finished 10th nationally with 16 rushing touchdowns for the Cougars. McCaskill’s 16 rushing TDs were second-most in program history and his 18 total touchdowns were the most by a Cougar true freshman.
Prior to Houston, Blackwell spent one season at West Virginia as running backs coach. Blackwell helped lead a Mountaineer offense that eclipsed the 500-yard and 40-point marks eight times during the season including 704 yards and 56 points vs. Oklahoma.
West Virginia had three different running backs register 100-yard rushing games during the 2018 season, including Leddie Brown. Brown became the first WVU true freshman to record multiple 100-yard rushing games since Noel Devine in 2007.
Blackwell arrived in West Virginia after serving as the running backs coach at Toledo in 2016-17. He was part of a staff that led the Rockets to a 20-7 mark during his tenure, including an 11-3 record in 2017, the 2017 Mid-American Conference championship and two bowl appearances.
In 2016, Blackwell helped Kareem Hunt lead the MAC with 1,475 yards while rushing for at least 100 yards eight times. A third-round NFL Draft selection by the Kansas City Chiefs, Hunt finished with a Toledo-record 4,945 yards, ranking No. 3 in MAC history.
New head football strength and conditioning coach Savage spent the last four seasons as Florida’s director of football strength and conditioning. He was instrumental in developing the Gators into one of the nation’s fittest teams, specifically on the offensive and defensive line.
Freshman defensive tackle Desmond Watson weighed 432 pounds when he arrived at Florida in January 2021. Watson trimmed down into the high-300 pound range and played almost 150 snaps during the 2021 season as a freshman.
Savage also helped Florida guard Ethan White transform his body in 2019. White enrolled at UF hovering around the 400-pound mark and lost roughly 60 pounds before playing meaningful snaps as a true freshman on UF’s offensive line.
Prior to Florida, Savage spent four seasons (2014-17) at Mississippi State, serving as head football strength coach in 2016 and 2017. During Savage’ time at MSU, the Bulldogs ranked second in the SEC West in victories. Mississippi State advanced to a bowl game in each of Savage’s four seasons on staff.
Savage has worked with over 30 athletes who have been selected in the NFL draft since 2013. He had prior stops as a graduate assistant strength coach and intern at Toledo (2014), Ohio State (2013-14) and Bowling Green (2013).
Nix has served as the Rebels’ wide receiver coach since 2020. Last season, Nix mentored Dontario Drummond to 1,028 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Drummond became just the fifth Rebel to surpass the 1,000-yard receiving plateau.
Nix’s first season as wide receivers coach was a memorable one as he guided Elijah Moore to an All-America campaign in 2020. Being coached by Nix for the first time, Moore led the nation in receiving yards per game (149.1) and receptions per game (10.8) on his way to being named a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award as one of the best wide receivers in college football.
Prior to the start of the Kiffin era, Nix spent 12 years as Ole Miss’ running backs coach. Nix has tutored some of the most productive backs in Ole Miss history in Dexter McCluster, Brandon Bolden, Jaylen Walton, Jordan Wilkins and Scottie Phillips, while the Rebels have ranked top-three in the SEC in rushing three times.
Ever since his arrival in Oxford, Nix has been one of the best recruiters in the SEC. He is known for his strong recruiting in the state of Mississippi, and 247Sports ranked Nix as the No. 21 recruiter in the country in 2014.