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Ole Miss Practice Report: Linebacker update and tight end notes

Photo by Joshua McCoy/Ole Miss Athletics

By Brian Scott Rippee

OXFORD — Fall camp is winding down for an Ole Miss team that is nine days away from playing its season opener against Texas Tech at NRG Stadium in Houston. The Rebels began preparing for the Red Raiders during a 15-minute installment during Tuesday’s practice and will continue to do so in larger doses as the team transitions out of camp and into game week.

Here are some news and notes from Thursday’s practice.

Sanogo and Ruggs running with first team:

The linebacking corps has been arguably the most scrutinized position group this offseason. Ole Miss’ struggles at this position, particularly in stopping the run, have been well documented. Sophomore Mohammed Sanogo and true freshman Kevontae’ Ruggs ran with the first team during practice. Ruggs has turned heads in fall camp and will play a significant role this fall.

“If he knows what to do, he is running full speed and is going to make the play,” Sanogo said of Ruggs. “You are going to notice when he is on the field.”

Sanogo appears to be close to locking down the starting job at middle linebacker.

“Just knowing the defense and knowing not only where I am supposed to be, but where the guy next to me is supposed to be and where everyone on the defense is supposed to be,” Sanogo said. “If I see a problem, I need to get them lined up.”

Sanogo knows how badly the team struggled at times last year on defense and feels the scrutiny the position is under. There isn’t much more to learn about this team on the defensive side in fall camp. It is a matter of getting into game action to gauge how much the unit has improved.

“Big chip on our shoulder,” Sanogo said. “We are coming to put the Ole Miss linebackers on the map.”

Knox and Cooley split reps at tight end:

Dawson Knox and Octavious Cooley both ran with the first team offense at tight end during Thursday’s practice. Knox missed the first part of last season with a foot injury, but made an impact once he got healthy. Knox caught 24 balls for 321 yards. Cooley played sparsely but will likely have a bigger impact this season.

“Cooley is going to get a lot of good minutes this year,” Knox said. “We are pretty similar. He has a little extra weight and he is pretty physical in the box. I feel like I can run and can get outside but I feel like we are pretty similar.”

Ole Miss plans to use more two-tight end sets this year, particular in situations when it needs to run the football. Knox’s hands and quickness make him a little more equipped than Cooley in terms of being a threat in the passing game, but Cooley’s size is something the Rebels will utilize up front. Having both of them healthy and ready to play will expand how Ole Miss can line up.

“With us having two guys that are capable of moving the pile on first downs but also agile enough to be effective on third and long, it will be awesome for us to have those guys in the game at the same time,” tight ends coach Maurice Harris said.

Harris also noted he is comfortable using Jason Pellerin in a variety of ways.

Brown healthy:

A.J. Brown missed a portion of fall camp with a pulled hamstring, but returned to the field this week. The All-American wide receiver said he feels fine, but is being cautious with it.

“It has been up-and-down,” Brown said. “Obviously, I want to be out there with my brothers but I have also gotten a lot of mental reps. I have studied film a lot. When I get back on the field for real, I will know what to do and be a step ahead.”

Brown has been limited in practice, something he said is strictly a precautionary measure. He feels no pain other than some natural soreness.

Random notes:

-Royce Newman took second team reps at left guard.
-Jason Pellerin ran as the third-string tight end with Gabe Angel running with the No. 4’s

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