NOTEBOOK: Jones ‘pleased’ with first look at CB rotation
Stiffer tests await them further down the schedule, but Saturday’s opener was a sound start for Ole Miss’ top three cornerbacks.
Tony Bridges, Tee Shepard and Kendarius Webster have separated themselves from the rest of the cornerbacks on the roster and rotated in and out of the Rebels’ lopsided win over Tennessee-Martin. Not many of Jarod Neals’ 24 pass attempts went in their direction as none of them recorded a pass breakup, but with Bridges and Shepard making their Ole Miss debuts and Webster making just his second career stater, coaches were glad in a way that things were relatively quiet on the back end.
“Didn’t have a lot of opportunities to make a lot of plays, but they moved around well,” cornerbacks coach Jason Jones said. “Overall we didn’t have a lot of missed assignments or anything like that, so that was good.
“I’m pleased, but we’re still not where we need to be.”
Bridges, a junior college All-American last season at Mississippi Gulf Coast, has been one of Ole Miss’ top cornerbacks throughout fall camp and showed a knack for getting to the ball with teammates estimating he pulled down 10 interceptions during camp.
He also showed that aggressiveness when the Skyhawks ran the ball, coming up to offer support in the box. Bridges finished with a team-high six tackles with half of one coming behind the line of scrimmage.
“He’s a physical guy,” Jones said of Bridges. “He came down and made some tackles and threw his body around. That was good to see.”
The battle opposite Bridges went back and forth between Webster, a sophomore, and Shepard, another former junior college All-American who made it all the way through camp after his season ended in the preseason last year with a toe injury.
Webster moved ahead toward the end of camp, and Jones said that pecking order will remain the same heading into Saturday’s game against Fresno State (2:30 p.m., ESPN2). But whether it’s performance or the pace of the game, all three will get their fair share of snaps throughout the season.
“That’s the good thing about it with those three,” Jones said. “If one guy isn’t performing well, I can always make a change and it’s not a dropoff.”
Redshirt coming off?
With neck surgery ending defensive tackle Issac Gross’ season, head coach Hugh Freeze is looking for another body to keep the Rebels deep up front.
It could mean taking the planned redshirt off one of his true freshman.
“We’ll probably pull the redshirt off Austrian (Robinson) to give us some additional depth there because you’re going to need it throughout the season,” Freeze said.
Gross has been dealing with a nerve issue in his neck since last season, and Freeze said another trip to the doctor showed “the spur has gotten definitely worse into the nerves.” D.J. Jones and Woody Hamilton will now rotate at nosetackle, Freeze said, while Breeland Speaks and Robert Nkemdiche handle the three-technique.
No change with Tunsil
Freeze said Wednesday there’s “nothing new at all” with the status of left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who continues to be held out of action as the school works jointly with the NCAA to look into an eligibility matter.
As for safety C.J. Hampton, who missed the opener for an unspecified violation of teams rules, Freeze said he’d likely be held out one more game, but a final decision hasn’t been made.