Braylon Sanders was back at practice on Tuesday and was in a blue jersey, indicating he was not limited from contact.
The junior wide receiver has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury he suffered in the first half of Ole Miss’ season-opening loss at Memphis. Sanders had been limited in practice the last two weeks, unable to change speeds and push off his injured leg.
“He looked good,” wide receivers coach Jacob Peeler said. “We just have to be smart. He was standing on my heels wanting to get back into the game against Memphis. Just wasn’t able to go, re-tweaked it which caused him to be out the last couple of weeks. He looked good out there today.”
Peeler feels confident Sanders will be able to play on Saturday against Cal, arguably the Rebels’ most important game of the season considering what is at stake with regards to bowl eligibility. Sanders is the most experienced receiver on the roster. His presence has been missed dearly by a young receiving corps that is still trying to find its footing. Only two receivers recorded catches in the win over Arkansas — Elijah Moore and Dontario Drummond. Ten players caught passes last week. Moore has had seven catches the last two weeks and no other player has recorded more than three catches in a game this season.
Moore has earned quarterback Matt Corral’s trust. The others have yet to do so. Sanders falls into the former category and his return will aid in Corral feeling comfortable in a new system behind shaky offensive line play.
“It is just another receiver that I trust out there,” Corral said. “Me and Braylon have chemistry. We hang out a lot on and off the field. That’s my brother right there. We need him to get back in shape because he hasn’t been out there for a couple weeks.”
Behind Moore, the receiving corps remains a bit of a mystery, which is less than ideal for Ole Mis as it faces on of the better secondaries in college football this week. Sanders’ return will immensely help the team’s chances.
— Weather and travel have been a popular topic this week as a California team travels across the country into the sweltering Mississippi heat to play a game that will start at 9 A.M. Pacific Time. Corral is a California native and thinks the heat will make more of a difference than the time.
“It’s going to be hot,” Corral said. “That’s about it. I don’t know if the time is really going to matter. The heat is different, I’m not going to lie. A nice 70 degrees at practice versus it being 80 at six o’clock in the morning and even hotter at practice in the afternoon. There is a big difference. But at the end of the day, we have to put the football down and play.”
— Peeler is familiar with California’s vaunted secondary. Essentially all of them were there when Peeler coached at California from 2013-16. He describes the challenges they present and what the Rebels will be up against on Saturday.
— Josiah Coatney thinks Ole Miss needs to tackle better as a unit. He is pleased with the progress the team has made against the run, but believes there is much room for improvement.