In the quest for depth, here are several who stood out to me in spring practice …
Maikhail Miller: Seems like there’s a place for a guy who can bounces off contact when he runs. He took advantage of Bo Wallace’s absence with a ton of reps at quarterback. He’s a 240-pound mass who can handle the ball. Maybe he’s a third-and-1 option with a shotgun snap. Maybe you teach him to line up at tailback and run straight ahead.
Young Running Backs: I’Tavius Mathers looked good, and so did Mark Dodson. Wouldn’t be a stretch to see Dodson getting snaps in the fall. Mathers and Dodson are very similar, Mathers at 5-11, 195, Dodson at 5-10, 193. Dodson didn’t look like a guy who was just weeks out of high school and should be getting ready for his prom right now. Jaylen Walton will get his snaps. He does a lot of different things. Good depth at running back behind Jeff Scott, even if the depth is largely inexperienced. Mathers had 27 carries last year, Walton 23. They both showed out in the bowl game.
Robert Ratliff: Senior quarterback, former walk-on. If he’s taking snaps in a game a lot of things have happened, most of them probably not good. It takes a lot of guys to help prepare a football team, and Ratliff threw some really nice balls.
Carlos Davis: Davis, 5-9, 163, was a walk-on running back last season when he made a name for himself as a sure tackler on special teams. That earned him a switch to defense in the spring where he held his own at cornerback.
Channing Ward: Hype followed Ward every step of the way last season through his commitment, his signing and ultimately his very late NCAA certification. By the time he was on the field the Rebels were in weekly game-planning mode, and it took him until bowl practice and the spring to catch up on some individual instruction. You never saw Ward make dominating plays in the spring. Even with C.J. Johnson out, Ward was still running second team. Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack later told us that Ward has some personal issues he was dealing with, and things seemed to go better for him after he spoke with coaches. Wommack says Ward played faster the last week of spring. I thought that was the case on Monday of the final week and again last Saturday in the Grove Bowl scrimmage work. He did something nobody else did in the Grove Bowl and that was tackle Miller one-on-one. Ward seemed to be around the ball more too. Maybe he turned that corner. We’ll see. He can be an important player if he comes around.
Andy Pappanastos: Keep an eye on the kickers. Pappanastos hit from 40-plus in the Grove Bowl. Andrew Ritter did not. May be a competition to watch. Ritter was the kickoff specialist when he redshirted as a senior last year. The Rebels are looking to replace Bryson Rose.