Senior right tackle Alex Givens was a limited participant in practice on Tuesday and took reps with the first-team offense.
It is the first time Givens has practiced in shoulder pads since he underwent a back procedure on July 18. The overarching uncertainty pertaining to the Ole Miss offense heading into its season opener at Memphis Saturday is undoubtedly an offensive line that is relatively inexperienced and lacks depth. Givens is the most experienced lineman on the roster and his absence only amplified those concerns. His status for Saturday is still unknown.
“We are still determining all of that now,” offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. said. “We were sure glad to see him out there, I can guarantee you that. We will really know tomorrow when we see how he feels. I have a tendency to work out, then stop, then work out again and get really sore. It’s the same thing. It is an exciting and positive sign, but we need to see how he feels tomorrow.”
Bicknell estimated that Givens took half of the available reps in various drills throughout practice on Tuesday. If Givens is unable to go, Bryce Mathews will most likely get the nod at right tackle with senior Michael Howard drawing the start at left tackle. Howard is a journeyman of sorts, who has teetered back-and-forth from lineman to tight end throughout his career due to his inability to keep weight on. Bicknell was happy to report Howard has remained at 280 pounds throughout camp and appears to be keeping weight better than he ever has. The coaching staff checks Howard’s weight every day.
“He’s been hanging in there,” Bicknell said. ” I told him ‘we need you, man. If you are going to be out there at 260 pounds, that’s your problem, but you are going to be out there.'”
— Freshman running back Jerrion Ealy said he will not have any butterflies when his head hits the pillow on Friday night. With his first college game looming on Saturday, Ealy is eager but not nervous. He says he has become comfortable enough in Rich Rodriguez’s offense to know what his role will be.
“I am very comfortable now,” Ealy said. “When I go out there, I feel like I am just playing. I don’t have to think about my assignments or anything. I am just going out and playing full speed.”
Ealy said it took roughly four or five days to arrive at this comfort level. He relishes the depth Ole Miss possesses in the backfield with established senior Scottie Phillips, along with fellow newcomer Snoop Conner and redshirt sophomore Isaiah Woullard. Ealy doesn’t mind the crowded backfield and thinks it will benefit the team in the end. He says there isn’t much clarity with regards to the pecking order, aside from Phillips being the bell cow.
As far as Ealy’s role for Saturday?
“Look to get me the ball in space,” Ealy said. “That’s all I know. Sometimes they ask me to get in the slot, carry the ball, return punts and kicks. Pretty much anything.”
— Tyrone Nix is the man responsible for coaching the newest and most intriguing position on the Ole Miss defense. The outside linebacker — commonly know as the ‘edge’ position — is the most drastic difference in how the Rebels will line up from a year ago. Mike MacIntyre’s 3-4 scheme calls for this unit to have pass rush and run-stopping duties, as well as pass coverage responsibilities. The personnel group is an eclectic blend of converted defensive ends and larger “outside” backers in a 4-3 scheme. How often will Ole Miss use these guys in blitz schemes on Saturday?
“Whatever gives us the best chance on each play,” Nix said. “Coach Mac is going to do a good job of mixing it up who is coming as the fourth and fifth rusher.”
Nix thinks he can play five or six guys on Saturday, beginning with junior college transfer Sam Williams and senior Qaadir Sheppard — who is still nursing a broken bone in his left hand and will wear a club on it.
— Keidron Smith pieced together a productive true freshman campaign in 2018 and was one of only a couple bright spots in an otherwise miserable season for the Ole Miss defense. Smith discussed his knack for using his length, how cornerbacks faired in fall camp and more.
Stay up to date with all of Mississippi’s latest news by signing up for our free newsletter here.
Copyright 2023 SuperTalk Mississippi Media. All rights reserved.