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TE Engram returning for senior season

The decision really could’ve gone either way for Evan Engram, but if Ole Miss’ tight end wanted to maximize his draft stock, he knew what he ultimately had to do.

Engram said Thursday he’ll skip out on the NFL for now and return for his senior season, ensuring quarterback Chad Kelly has at least one familiar target to throw to again. Engram called his decision “a good toss-up” between foregoing his final season of eligibility for the NFL draft or coming back to school, but some feedback from coaches, NFL scouts and general managers as well as his own research helped him make his choice.

“It was facts. I think 55 out of the last 70 tight ends drafted were seniors,” Engram said. “It’s a real rare position to get drafted as high as I wanted to as a junior. It was just hard facts that were basically reality. Knowing my ability and my work ethic and knowing the things teams want to see from me, I can accomplish that in the offseason.”

Engram submitted paperwork to the NFL Draft Advisory Board to get back a draft grade, but he didn’t wait for an answer as to what round he could possibly be selected. The 6-foot-3, 227-pound Engram, a three-time All-Southeastern Conference selection, was ranked as the nation’s top tight end among underclassmen in the summer by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., but he hasn’t been the big-play threat he was a season ago.

Engram has 32 catches for 368 yards on the season, good for a career-low 11.5 yards per reception. But as the Rebels’ career receiving yardage leader for a tight end with 91 catches for 1,289 yards and seven career touchdowns, Engram has established himself as one of the nation’s premier pass-catchers at his position.

Engram’s combination of size and speed has made for a difficult matchup for linebackers and safeties in coverage the last three seasons. The feedback he’s received from NFL teams, Engram said, is to see if he can bulk up some more and still keep that speed to attack defenses from different spots on the field.

“Next season to play around 245 would probably be ideal for me to still be able to move around like I can,” said Engram, who’s spent most of his career at about 230 pounds. “Just talking to some of the coaches, move around a little bit more, maybe in the slot or one-on-one with corners or a safety out wide. Just move me around and show my versatility, I think that’s going to be the big plus side of me coming back.

“They know I’ll mix it up. They know I have the motor, too. It was just the consistency. That’s one thing that’s going to be in my tank this offseason after this bowl game is to get bigger and stronger.”

Engram and the rest of the Rebels will take on Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 before preparation begins for next season, which has a singular purpose for Engram.

“I’ve had too much fun here,” he said. “We have a goal of bringing an SEC championship here to Oxford. I wouldn’t be able to rest easy without leaving with one, without giving it another shot.”

Brown, Conner have surgery
Defensive end Fadol Brown and defensive back Tony Conner have undergone their previously scheduled surgeries. Conner had his surgery Thursday while Brown’s was earlier in the week, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said.

They’ll both miss the Sugar Bowl.

Brown suffered a fracture in his foot late in the season while Conner had a second operation on the torn meniscus he suffered Sept. 19 against Alabama.