Duke forces his way onto first team at Ole Miss

By Parrish Alford Daily Journal
OXFORD – It may end up being no more than Jared Duke’s cup of coffee on the Ole Miss offensive line.

That is, if Aaron Morris is effectively motivated by his demotion.

Morris, a junior from Jackson, has 19 career starts at left guard, and that’s 14 more than Duke, a senior.

But it was Duke, who has played mostly special teams the last two years, who ran with the first team at left guard in Thursday’s practice.

“Effort, we’ve got to give effort every play, and Jared’s giving great effort,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “We reward great effort. It’s about competition. What did you do today? Did you win today? It’s not about last year or two days ago.

Did you bring your best today?”

Duke went into camp No. 2 behind Morris at left guard.

Earlier in the week Morris, who is coming off foot surgery in the off-season, was pulled for a series while Duke ran with the ones. Morris was exclusively second team on Thursday.

Elsewhere on the offensive line the Rebels have welcomed back senior right tackle Pierce Burton.

That has cut down on first-team snaps for freshman Laremy Tunsil. With Burton out, left tackle Emmanuel McCray had moved to the right side, and Tunsil was inserted with the starters.

Defensively, junior end C.J. Johnson went through team drills as he’s gradually taking on a larger role in practice.

He moved well during the work out, but by the time conditioning work came along he was limping and unable to finish sprints.

“He seemed to handle it fairly well. He’s going to have to play through some pain,” Freeze said.

Doctors from Jackson who performed the surgeries on Johnson and quarterback Bo Wallace were in town earlier in the week checking on the players and found no medical issues.

The soreness around the bicep and elbow is common after shoulder work such as Wallace is working through.

Freeze said his quarterback at Arkansas State, Ryan Aplin, had the same procedure and practiced for a month before the bicep and elbow had no pain.

Also on the defense, linebacker D.T. Shackelford, coming off two major knee surgeries and two seasons away from the game, was moved to end where he ran exclusively with the second team.

Freeze says Shackelford’s quickness is much improved from the spring and that he appears more confident.

Shackelford agreed with the evaluation.

“Just going over my plays more and the collective effort of different things on a daily basis, my conditioning level, all that has a vital role in how I’m able to perform,” he said.

Parrish.alford@journalinc.com