Ole Miss heavily rotating, aiming to build depth early in camp

Published 6:11 pm Tuesday, August 7, 2018

If there’s an overriding takeaway from the first week of Ole Miss’ fall camp, it’s this: Don’t make too much of who is repping where.

The Rebels held their first full-padded practice Tuesday morning and continued to heavily rotate players among the first, second and third teams, particularly on defense. All of the mixing and matching breeds competition as head coach Matt Luke tries to build depth at various positions.

“We’ve done a lot of split teams,” Luke said. “We’ve got a lot more on defense with some young guys that are trying to prove themselves, so we’ve done a lot of split teams and got a bunch of reps.”

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A defensive line ravaged by injuries in the spring is getting a long look with a number of different combinations that continued Tuesday. Nose tackle Ross Donelly repped ahead of incumbent Benito Jones with the first team while Jones repped with a second-team line that also included a rotation of Markel Winters, Qaadir Sheppard and junior college transfer Tariqious Tisdale at end and Austrian Robinson along with true freshmen Quinten Bivens and KD Hill on the interior.

“They’re pushing each other,” Luke said of Donelly and Jones. “I don’t think there’s one ahead of the other. I think it’s more about competition and trying to get them both better.”

Ends Victor Evans and Ryder Anderson and tackle Josiah Coatney joined Donelly on the first-team line, though they know plenty could change with nearly four weeks left before the Rebels’ opener against Texas Tech on Sept. 1.

“None of that stuff is final,” Anderson said. “I have to keep on working because if I let up, with our d-line room, we’ve got a room full of ballers. If I let up, somebody’s going to be in front of me. That’s for every position.”

Junior college transfer Vernon Dasher began the fall at the top of the depth chart at Star, a hybrid linebacker/safety position in the Rebels’ 4-2-5 scheme, but junior Montrell Custis repped there Tuesday. Myles Hartsfield, who’s played safety and corner, is also getting a look there, Luke said. The mixing and matching at linebacker started behind Detric Bing-Dukes and Josh Clarke with Mohamed Sanogo, redshirt freshman Zikerrion Baker and true freshman Kevontae Ruggs getting looks with the second and third teams.

Offensively, Scottie Phillips and Eric Swinney continued to split first-team reps at running back with Armani Linton and freshmen Isaiah Woullard and Tylan Knight rotating in behind. Redshirt freshman Ben Brown continues to make a strong push at right guard, taking all the first-team reps there ahead of senior Jordan Sims, who worked with the second team at center.

“Ben gives us that flexiblity,” Luke said. “He’s having a really good camp.”

Brown, Hamilton held out

A.J. Brown and cornerback Javien Hamilton were held out for the majority of practice with hamstring injuries. Both were dressed out but spent most of the time watching from the sideline.

Luke didn’t express concern about either injury. Brown can’t run at full speed, so he’s being limited more as a precaution. Senior Floyd Allen repped with the first-team offense in the slot in Brown’s absence.

Receiver Jason Pellerin dislocated his finger and will be out for about a week, Luke said. Freshman quarterback Matt Corral went though the majority of the two-hour workout before cramps sidelined him toward the end.