Ole Miss began fall camp under a sweltering summer sky on Friday morning. As the Rebels barrel towards the 2019 season opener at Memphis on August 31, here are some notes from the first practice.
— There are more bodies on the field. Forgive me stating the obvious, but it was immediately noticeable that Ole Miss’ first fall practice of 2019 felt more crowded than last year’s practices. That is because the Rebels are back at a full allotment of scholarships (85). They took the field in multiple games last year with fewer than 60 available scholarship players, including 52 in one game last October. While depth remains a question for Ole Miss in a number of areas, particularly defensively and on the offensive line, the Rebels at least have a full crop of players to try to formulate some semblance of depth.
— Scottie Phillips has added at least five pounds of muscle. The senior running back is listed at 216 pounds and is visibly thicker. Phillips played at 211 during the 2018 season and would have been a 1,000-yard back had he not missed the last two games of the season with an ankle injury. Phillips is the centerpiece of a running back room that may very well be the deepest position group on the roster with incoming freshmen Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner joining the likes of Isaiah Woullard and D’Vaughn Pennamon — who is fully healthy after missing all of last season due to a devastating knee injury suffered in the penultimate game of the 2017 season.
— Ole Miss did some special teams drills early on in practice. Jadon Jackson, Elijah Moore, Ealy and Braylon Sanders all fielded punts. Moore primarily manned this task last season. Sanders returned one punt in 2018.
— With Alex Givens out (or limited) for the foreseeable future due to a back injury, senior Michael Howard ran with the first team offensive line at right tackle. The rest of the first team offensive line remained the same with Ben Brown at right guard, Eli Johnson at center, Royce Newman at left guard and Bryce Mathews at left tackle. On Ole Miss’ initial two-deep depth chart released two weeks ago, Howard was listed as the backup left tackle behind Mathews. Hamilton Hall was slated as Givens’ backup. Freshmen Nick Broeker and Jeremy James took reps with the second team offensive line.
— Tylan Knight worked with the running backs during drills and also caught passes out of the slot during the team offensive period. Elijah Moore lined up in the slot as well with Braylon Sanders and Miles Battle manning the outside receiver slots. Demarcus Gregory and Dontario Drummond took reps at outside receiver as well.
Reminder: It is the first day of camp and and any sweeping assumption related to the depth chart is a foolish one, outside of a few obvious constants.
— Luke Knox and Montrell Custis wore no-contact jerseys. Custis is recovering from a torn ACL suffered last September against Alabama. Knox is dealing with a hamstring ailment.
photo credit: Joshua McCoy– Ole Miss Athletics