Former cornerback Jaylon Jones making ‘big push’ at safety for Ole Miss

Published 5:40 pm Monday, August 28, 2017

Ole Miss’ No. 2 safety may be a cornerback.

Jaylon Jones is making “a big push” in an ongoing competition to start alongside Zedrick Woods at free safety, interim coach Matt Luke said. It’s one of the few positions that remains unsettled just five days before the Rebels open their season Saturday against South Alabama (6:30 p.m., ESPNU).

“I think Jaylon gives us some really good depth there for sure and is pushing for playing time,” Luke said.

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Jones, who played every game at cornerback last season with one start, recently joined a competition that includes senior C.J. Hampton and junior C.J. Moore, who got most of the first-team reps during training camp. But first-year defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff didn’t see the amount of separation he talked about wanting at the position during camp, prompting Jones’ move near the end of camp.

McGriff said Jones has looked like a natural at the position.

“His movement skills. His awareness. I wish we moved him there earlier on so we had more time to task,” McGriff said. “I like his athleticism. I like his ball skills. Really like his attention to detail. Wish he was about 10 pounds heavier, but other than that, I think we’ve got him in the right seat not only for the football team but for himself.

“He’s been very productive there in training camp. I’m looking forward to watching him play safety with the live bullets coming at him.”

Jones tied for the team lead last season with five pass breakups.

Pennamon No. 2

D’Vaughn Pennamon will be first off the sideline to spell Jordan Wilkins at running back Saturday.

Luke and offensive coordinator Phil Longo both said Pennamon has separated himself as the No. 2 back after strong showings in camp and scrimmages. The 5-foot-11, 238-pound sophomore was competing with Eric Swinney, Eugene Brazley and D.K. Buford, but Longo said they will all likely play as the Rebels try to build depth at the position.

“That’s the position I’m most interested in watching compete on Saturday because we’re going to play some guys,” Longo said. “They all have a role.”

Dawson Knox out

Starting tight end Dawson Knox won’t play in the opener, Luke confirmed.

Knox had been questionable since suffering a foot injury earlier this month that kept him out of the latter part of training camp. Ty Quick is listed as the starter at tight end on the latest depth chart the team released Monday.

Luke said Knox will likely be held out of practice this week before being evaluated further. Reserve defensive lineman Garrald McDowell will also miss the opener.

“I think he’ll have a chance for next week, but I’m hoping Cal (in Week 3) for sure,” Luke said.

Fresh playing time

Luke mentioned receiver Braylon Sanders, cornerback D.D. Bowie, safety C.J. Miller, defensive end Ryder Anderson and safety Breon Dixon as true freshmen that are in line to play Saturday. There’s also “a chance” for offensive lineman Ben Brown to see the field, Luke said.

Luke said Bowie will also return kickoffs along with Jones. A.J. Brown will return punts.