POTTER: Takeaways from Ole Miss’ fall camp

Published 11:12 pm Sunday, August 28, 2016

The grind, as players and coaches so often like to refer to it, is over.

Fall camp is in the rearview mirror for college teams, and No. 11 Ole Miss is deep into preparations for its Labor Day tussle with No. 4 Florida State. We didn’t need fall camp to know Chad Kelly is good and the Rebels are still deep at receiver and along the defensive line, but what did the last three weeks tell us about a team that will be tested right off the bat?

Here are some takeaways from Ole Miss’ fall camp.

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Rod Taylor the answer at left tackle — for now

Jeremy Liggins and Alex Givens were listed at the top of the preseason depth chart at left tackle, but Taylor quietly put together a solid camp to emerge as Laremy Tunsil’s replacement.

It’s going to be nearly impossible to find any college lineman with the blend of agility and athleticism that Tunsil played with on the edge, but Taylor, who was primarily a guard his first two seasons on campus, may be the most athletic lineman left on the roster while coaches rave about his footwork.

But true freshman Greg Little is waiting in case Taylor struggles against some of the quality defensive fronts the Rebels will see early. Little isn’t Tunsil and those comparisons are frankly unfair, but the five-star signee is a massive body that has some similar traits at the position to the Rebels’ former All-American.

Meanwhile, Givens has been repping with the second team at right tackle in recent practices open to the media and may give Ole Miss some depth there.

Fadol Brown’s recovery concerning

With Ole Miss going up against Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Alabama’s stable of running backs within the first month of the season, the Rebels will need as much girth as possible on the defensive front from the start.

Which makes strongside end Fadol Brown’s slow recovery from surgery on his fractured foot a concern.

The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Brown has had two surgeries since suffering the injury late last season and hasn’t practiced other than the occasional individual drill early in camp. Head coach Hugh Freeze revealed Friday that Brown recently went to Texas to undergo another treatment with it likely taking a couple days to know if it helps, but Brown is going to have to deal with some degree of pain if he wants to play this season.

Will he play? And if he does, how effective will he be?

Even experience has to adjust

Rommel Mageo was a two-year starter at Oregon State and was the Beavers’ leading tackler last year, and Ole Miss brought him in as a graduate transfer to plug in immediately at middle linebacker.

Yet he wouldn’t start if Ole Miss played today as he continues to try to fully grasp the concepts and intricacies of a new defense along with fellow linebacker transfer Detric Bing-Dukes.

I think Mageo, who’s currently running with the second team at the position, will eventually emerge there, and Ole Miss needs that to allow DeMarquis Gates, its leading tackler a season ago, to move back to his more natural outside spot so that the Rebels have their best defense on the field. It may just take a little longer than expected.

Youth will be served

Ole Miss’ 2013 recruiting class will be talked about for a long time, but it’s this year’s crop of newcomers that’s actually the highest-ranked in school history.

The Rebels will throw a lot of them into the fire immediately.

Expect some growing pains in the secondary with the post-Trae Elston and Mike Hilton era starting with four freshmen and sophomores in the two-deep at safety. True freshman Myles Hartsfield is at the top of the depth chart at rover while Deontay Anderson will be a significant part of the rotation on the back end assuming the broken bone in his hand doesn’t limit him.

True freshmen A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf are physically ready to play in the Southeastern Conference and will be part of that deep receiving corps while quarterback Shea Patterson may be too talented to not at least take snaps in certain packages. Big-bodied freshman Benito Jones will have a role on the interior of the defensive line.