Sunday Morning Update

The Rebels are back at practice today in a closed workout. Notes and thoughts here as we enter an abbreviated game week …

Depth Chart: Ole Miss released its first regular season dept chart Friday after noon. There aren’t many things that coaches are “required” to do when it comes to media. In-game interviews for television are a requirement.

Depth charts must be another one.

“Things are etched in sand when it comes to depth charts. That’s why I don’t even like having one,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze says.

Moving ahead. The word “or” appears on the Ole Miss depth chart eight times. It’s used when coaches know they have to list two names but feel competition at a position is so close that they could end up making either player their first option.

Freeze lists “or” at No. 1 and No. 2 running back, No. 2 quarterback, No. 1 nose tackle, No. 1 place kicker and No. 2 Huskie.

It’s interesting to see the “or” also at middle linebacker between D.T. Shackelford and Christian Russell, at No. 1 Rover between Trae Elston and Anthony Alford.

Running backs coach Derrick Nix told me last week he would have four backs ready to play. Ready to play and ultimately playing a prominent role are far from the same thing.

It’s been my guess that three primary backs would be I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton – the most experienced – and junior college transfer Akeem Judd because at 220 pounds he brings more size than anyone else in the backfield.

The four backs listed are Mathers, Walton, Mark Dodson and Jordan Wilkins.

Don’t be surprised to see Judd. (See etched in sand above.)

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Walton or another back split out as a receiver a lot. Receiver depth was a camp story line that never got settled, and there are running backs who can help out there. They may never call those guys receivers, but you may see more sets that release them on routes.

Speaking of those Ole Miss receivers: Trey Bledsoe has emerged as a guy to keep an eye on. While Freeze spoke of the need for receiver depth in the off-season he often mentioned the freshmen – Sammie Epps, Markell Pack and Dayall Harris.

Bledsoe, a redshirt freshman from Grenada, is listed at 6-1, 208. The Ole Miss media guide lists him as a three-star recruit according to Rivals and ESPN, which means he was not a three-star across the board.

Epps was in position to provide some depth before his arrest for driving without a license and marijuana possession.

For freshmen, it’s a fine line between making an impact and being redshirted. When he discussed the arrest with us, Freeze seemed like he was ready to pull the trigger on a redshirt but backed off. Epps may yet play, though it won’t be against Boise. Athletic at 6-5, it’s just too tempting to try and use him for the matchup advantage he creates.

The problem with an arrest at this point in the season is the practice reps. Epps was still learning the offense. Now he’s back at practice but in a white scout team jersey, not the red one that signifies players getting reps on offense.

Unless this wide receiver depth exceeds expectations I’m guessing Epps plays.

Tight End Talk and QB Packages: Early on I liked DeVante Kincade to play as role as the “change-up quarterback,” as Barry Brunetti did last season.

From what I can tell, Kincade has been repped as the backup quarterback. He’s not been mentioned as a “wildcat” option.

In the spring Jeremy Liggins spent a lot of time in that role, taking a shotgun snap and running at the line. For that reason, it’s not a stretch to think he could do that against Boise. There’s time invested.

Freeze, though, says there’s no a QB package for Liggins in this game. He wants Liggins to learn tight end first.

In the limited viewing periods its looks like they’ve begun to throw to Liggins more, and he’s handled it well. Wouldn’t be shocking to see that in Atlanta.

The primary option for the Brunetti role appears to be Anthony Alford, which is not surprising. Players and staff called Alford the best athlete on the team last year when he was sitting out after transferring from Southern Miss where he was the starting quarterback in 2012 as a freshman. Right now Alford, no relation, is one of those “or” guys on the depth chart lining up behind Elston at Rover.

Surprise Guys: A lot of folks have mentioned freshman middle linebacker DeMarquis Gates as a player who wasn’t a big name recruit who will have an early impact.

Gates is usually one of the first ones out of the locker room and on the practice field. Freeze and Dave Wommack have had good things to say about him.

I think Matt Brown could be a surprise guy too. He’s a 6-3, 229 tight end, a walk-on sophomore who appeared in three games last year.

He’s athletic and has caught the ball well in practices this month and previously. He’s not going to move past Liggins as an “athletic” reserve behind Evan Engram, but they’ve used Brown in different sets in practice.

Helmet Talk: Boise will wear orange helmets against Ole Miss. It’s “believed to be” the first time the Broncos will wear orange helmets since joining the NCAA in 1970.

Call it what you want: One of the big national story lines of the off-season was the quest for NCAA autonomy for the bigger schools that make up most of the five former BCS conferences – SEC, ACC, Big 10, Pac-12, Big 12.

In media coverage you often heard these conference referred to as the “Power Five” leagues or the “power” conferences.

Boise State, perhaps in name the nation’s most prominent non-power five school, refers to these leagues another way.

In its official game notes Boise calls these conferences the “Resource Five.”

The Broncos since 2006 are 9-4 against the Resource Five including a 35-21 win over Georgia in their previous Chick-Fil-A Kickoff appearance in 2011.

Boise is 1-4 against the Resource Five league known as the SEC.

 

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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  • Killer_Beeze

    Good report PA.
    I’m excited about Thursday’s game. I expect a very competitive contest with Boise St. and (fingers crossed) an Ole Miss victory.


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