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Practice reports from Oxford & Starkville as season approaches

Photo by News Mississippi

In 11 days, Mississippi State and Ole Miss will open their respective 2019 campaigns, and as camp continues, here’s the latest from Starkville and Oxford from SportsTalk Mississippi’s Brian Hadad and Brian Scott Rippee.

Mississippi State:

  • Story by MSU Beat Reporter Brian Hadad

Mississippi State took the field under the lights at Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday night, as the Bulldogs went through their second full scrimmage of fall camp. Coach Joe Moorhead spoke with the local media following practice to discuss what he and his staff saw on the field and some potential issues off of it for his team.

Some highlights….

-The quarterback competition continues to roll along, but Moorhead told us we might have an announcement later this week. All information that came to us regarding the scrimmage is that the offense was impressive Saturday night, which included both quarterbacks.

-Devonta “Whop” Jason continues to miss practice as he is home in New Orleans tending to a personal situation. No timetable was given for his return, only that the team’s thoughts are with him.

-Moorhead was asked about any potential suspensions and told us that information would be given out on game week, probably on game day or the day before.

Mississippi State took Sunday off but returned to the practice field on Monday. Classes begin in Starkville this week, so the full grind of camp will begin to taper off. The Bulldogs begin the 2019 campaign on Saturday the 31st in New Orleans, taking on the University of Louisiana in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Ole Miss:

  • Story by Ole Miss Beat Reporter Brian Scott Rippee

Ole Miss held its second scrimmage of fall camp inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday. The Rebels then turned the page to their third week of fall camp and are just 11 days away from the team’s season opener at Memphis.

“I there was a competitive spirit out there that went back-and-for on both sides,” head coach Matt Luke said. “Scottie Phillips had a couple good runs early. I thought the defense bounced back and played well towards the end. I thought it was good competition and a big improvement from the first scrimmage in my eyes.”

Ole Miss is now at the point in camp where its focus begins to shift from themselves to their opponent as the Rebels are approaching their bout with the Memphis Tigers.

Some news and notes from Monday’s availability.

—  Ole Miss came out pretty clean on the injury front with the exception of Jalen Julius,  who rolled his ankle in Saturday’s scrimmage and was limited in practice on Monday. Luke does not anticipate the ailment bothering Julius for an extended period of time and the senior safety could be full go as early as Tuesday. Julius tweaked an ankle in the team’s first Saturday scrimmage as well.

Luke also noted redshirt freshman guard Hamilton Hall has a high ankle sprain and may be out four or five days.

— Alex Givens roamed the sidelines in a green no-contact jersey without shoulder pads on Monday. The senior tackle is recovering from a back procedure he endured on July 18. The staff remains cautiously optimistic Givens will be ready for the season opener at Memphis. He is by far and away the most experienced offensive lineman on the roster, and with the offensive line being the thinnest position group on the team, Luke isn’t taking any chances.

“He is doing more football-specific stuff so when he does come back, he will have built a base and not be starting from zero,” Luke said. “He is starting to do more and working his legs more. We are all anxious to get him back out there and he is getting closer, but we have to be smart. I think he is on track.”

Luke said they will likely have a final word on Givens status a week from Monday. The primary concern up on Givens return is his conditioning. His absence has spawned opportunity for some of the younger offensive linemen. True freshmen Nick Broeker and Jeremy James have been working with the second team at left and right tackle. At this point, the staff feels comfortable playing seven or eight offensive linemen in a game. It’s been repeated throughout fall camp that a number of the seven true freshmen offensive linemen that arrived on campus this summer are going to be thrust into action quickly. Broeker and James are two of the most likely candidates.

“I think we have made a lot of progress,” redshirt sophomore Ben Brown said. “We have a lot of young guys, some of whom aren’t going to redshirt. We need everyone to be ready. We have to get the freshmen ready. We have older guy too who may not have played that many snaps in games, but have been here for a while.”

Brown was put in a similar position. He started every game at right guard after being afforded a redshirt season. Brown thinks the speed of the game and the skill level of SEC defensive linemen is the most drastic adjustment the younger players will have to grapple with.

“It’s a huge jump,” Brown said. “Speed is a huge thing. Also, the technique and the nuances that come with that. If you are a half step off with your technique, the whole play can be over with. The first step and the nuances with your technique are huge.”

— Throughout fall camp, the defensive depth chart has been fluid to say the least. Here’s what thefirst-teamm defense looked like at practice on Monday.

CB: Jaylon Jones, Keidron Smith

SS: Jon Haynes

FS: A.J. Finley

OLB: Sam Williams, Willie Hibbler

ILB: Lakia Henry, Mohamed Sanogo

DE: Ryder Anderson, Josiah Coatney

NT: Benito Jones

What’s all of that mean? Wiley is filling in for Qaadir Sheppard at defensive end, who was back at practice on Monday wearing a club on his hand. Sheppard broke a bone in that hand during the first week of camp. He is not in danger of missing any game action. Defensive end has been a revolving door of sorts with Coatney, Anderson, Tariqious Tisdale and Austrian Robinson all getting reps with both the first and second teams. The Rebels have garnered some tangible depth on the defensive line, which should bode well for a unit that struggled to stop the run and generate an exterior pass rush last season.

“It’s always good to have backups,” senior nose tackle Benito Jones said. “It is good for our defense.”

Jon Haynes returned to practice without a no-contact uniform. Haynes missed last week with a lower-body injury. With he and Julius being banged up for a significant portion of camp, a lot of reps in the secondary have been allotted to younger players like A.J. Finley who ran with the first team in place of Julius on Monday.

“Finley, Tavario Standifer and all those other guys are getting reps,” Luke said. “It was good to see Jon Haynes back out there.

The second team defense lined up like this:

CB: Myles Hartsfield, Jakorey Hawkins

OLB: Brendan Williams, Brandon Mack

ILB: Donta Evans, Willie Hibbler

SS: Armani Linton

FS: C.J. Miller

DE: Tisdale, Robinson

NT: K.D. Hill

— Despite having just 20 career catches, Braylon Sanders is now the veteran in what has quickly transformed into a young wide receiver room with a lot of turnover from the 2018 team. Sanders is encouraged with what he sees from the younger wide receivers.

In his freshman and sophomore seasons, Sanders cracked a loaded depth chart that sent the likes of A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and Damarkus Lodge to the NFL. Now, these younger receivers will attempt to do the same thing.

“Just taking on that role, teaching these guys what those guys taught me when I was a young kid,” Sanders said. “Knowing the playbook and watching film. Those things will help you in the game and make it easier.”

Who will you see at receiver on August 31? Sanders and Miles Battle have repped with the first team on the outside with Elijah Moore in the slot. Ole Miss has also shown some four-wide sets with Moore and Tylan Knight in the slot. What makes that so difficult to defend?

“Two speedy guys out there at the same time. You put a safety on one and you leave the other open. Those guys in the slot are great,” Sanders said.

Sanders has primarily been a wideout during his first two seasons but has worked some at slot during camp.

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