By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Football coaches hunt for depth in the spring the way children hunt for Easter eggs.
It is quite common.
While the depth picture at Ole Miss is much better than it was a year ago, it’s not where Rebels coach Hugh Freeze wants it. In fact, it’s not even close.
“We’re still a couple of recruiting years away from having the depth you really need in some of these spots,” he said.
This assessment comes after Freeze signed a consensus top 10 class in February.
There is depth at some positions as the Rebels continue through spring drills, thin numbers at others.
Freeze and his staff knew they would be without quarterback Bo Wallace, offensive lineman Aaron Morris and wide receiver Collins Moore this spring.
Other injuries have crept up sending more players to the sideline including wide receivers Donte Moncrief and Korvic Neat and guard Patrick Junen.
The presence of Nick Brassell could make the Rebels deep and talented at cornerback, but Brassell’s academic status remains in question likely into the summer.
The return of D.T. Shackelford brings interesting possibilities at linebacker, but exactly how much Shackelford contributes after two years away remains to be seen.
The are solid numbers at running back, but the absences at receiver are noticeable. In addition to the injuries slot receiver Philander Moore was removed from the team last week.
“Our inside guys are really, really thin,” Freeze said.
There were 24 touchdown passes thrown last season. Nineteen were caught by wide receivers, 18 by starters Moncrief, Ja-Mes Logan and Vince Sanders.
The uncertain picture at tight end could cause Freeze to rely on his receivers more and in different ways in 2013, he said. The top three tight ends a year ago were seniors.
Junen, a senior this season, had the most experience among the offensive line reserves last year and had stepped into the first-team role at right guard, the only vacancy on a line that returns four starters. Now he has a sprained toe that will keep him out of work for several days.
Senior Jared Duke and sophomore Justin Bell ran with the first team in Wednesday’s workout. They had been trading reps on the left side, where Morris would be when healthy.
“We’ve got to be realists. We were so fortunate last year. We played three receivers pretty much the whole year, five offensive linemen,” Freeze said. “It’s rare that that happens, and we’re seeing it now. You get some injuries, and it changes your team pretty fast.”