Ole Miss depth chart positional breakdown

Published 3:07 pm Wednesday, August 28, 2019

With just days remaining until they take on Memphis, Ole Miss released a shell of their game one depth chart on Monday.

We can call it a shell for one simple reason – at eight positions, there was an “or” listed by the starters, signifying that the team either has not decided or doesn’t want to disclose the starters. With two days until the Rebels walk into the Liberty Bowl, let’s take a deeper look at some of the bigger surprises and concerns on that first depth chart.

1. MoMo Sanogo is not a lock to start

At first glance, the most surprising takeaway from the depth chart is the “or” listed by MoMo Sanogo. The true junior inside linebacker, who started all 12 games last year and totaled 112 sacks, isn’t guaranteed his starting position. On the other side that “or” is Donta Evans. As a redshirt sophomore last year, Evans saw action in seven games and recorded just five tackles.

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“He had a really, really good summer and has been very vocal,” said head coach Matt Luke, referring to Evans. “He’s been very physical in all these scrimmages and I think this 3-4 fits him because he’s not leaving the box.”

With the shift to Mike MacIntyre’s 3-4 defense, the Rebels will start two inside linebackers in 2019. The other locked-in starter is junior college transfer Lakia Henry. Now, realistically, Ole Miss has said they’re going to play a lot of defenders in this opening game, both to keep players fresh in the heat and to get a glimpse of what these guys can do. The team could be granting Henry that guaranteed starting spot as a reward for his work coming in late in camp, or Evans really could be playing that much better than Sanogo. It seems unlikely, with MoMo Sanogo’s experience, that the team will want him off the field much at all. But the initial depth chart leaves that question open ended.

2. Will Alex Givens be ready to go?

Up until this week, Alex Givens had not practiced at all. Ole Miss’s starting right tackle and most experienced offensive lineman missed almost all of camp while recovering from offseason back surgery. The team was hopeful that he would play against Memphis, but the progression just didn’t seem to make that realistic. Then, he practiced in full uniform on Tuesday.

Givens is listed as one of those either-or starters at right tackle with Bryce Matthews. The difference between the others with this designation is simple: if Givens is healthy, he’ll be starting. Matt Luke said on Monday that his experience gives him a chance to play even without practicing. Then he practiced. The biggest concern with Alex Givens at this point would be conditioning, but it seems like the Rebel tackle will be ready by Saturday.

3. Uncertainty in the secondary

A major difference between the 2019 Rebel team and the prior ones Matt Luke has captained is the depth. At just about every position group, there’s a handful of guys the team feels comfortable with using off the bench. The secondary and offensive line are the exceptions to that.

Myles Hartsfield is locked into one of the corner spots. Keidron Smith or Jaylon Jones will get the second corner spot, with Jon Haynes at strong safety and Jalen Julius at free safety. Other than those five, it’s a lot of question marks. Montrell Custis would typically be another name in that mix that Ole Miss would like to have, but his recovery from an ACL injury suffered last September has been a slow process. Custis still has not practiced without a non-contact injury.

4. Backup quarterback race still not settled

The Ole Miss starting quarterback job has been locked down for months, if not longer. But who will backup Matt Corral is still a big question mark for Ole Miss. John Rhys Plumlee is listed above Grant Tisdale on the depth chart, with an “or” between their names. The third true freshman on scholarship, Kinkead Dent, isn’t on the depth chart.

With the four-game redshirt rule, it’ll be interesting to see how the Rebels use Plumlee and Tisdale as replacement for Matt Corral. Tisdale is still getting all the No. 2 reps at practice, but Luke went out of his way when asked about the competition to mention that Plumlee is the better athlete. Don’t be surprised if the Rebels have a sort of wildcat formation they pull out in the red-zone that utilizes that athleticism by Plumlee.

5. Depth at running back emphasized

Running back is simply the deepest position on the Ole Miss roster. The Rebels list four on the depth chart, and it would be a surprise if all four didn’t see snaps. They even moved one former running back, D’Vaughn Pennamon, to tight end a few weeks ago. In the spring, Tylan Knight was moved from running back to slot receiver.

Scottie Phillips is obviously the starter. He’s earned the most carries on the team, and he’ll without a doubt get more touches than the others. Despite working primarily with the second string in practice, true freshman Jerrion Ealy is listed as the number two running back, as well as one of two kick returners. Between those two, Isaiah Woullard and Snoop Connor, it’ll be interesting to see how the snap count breaks down on the running back side come Saturday.


Nathanael Gabler covers Ole Miss and high school sports for the Oxford Eagle. You can reach him at nathanael.gabler@oxfordeagle.com with news tips, suggestions or comments. Follow @ngabler4 on Twitter.