By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – The absence of freshman tight end Evan Engram will be felt by the Ole Miss offense, Rebels coach Hugh Freeze said Monday.
The school announced Sunday that Engram would be lost for the remainder of the season after surgery to repair a high ankle sprain sustained against LSU.
“I think Evan Engram was on track to be a freshman All-American. We don’t have another one like him that can win some of the one-on-ones in space and do the blocking we were asking him to do,” Freeze said at his regular press conference. “That’s a difficult loss. He’s such a great kid and will be a tremendous leader for this program for years to come.”
Engram had two catches for 28 yards against LSU, one for a 22-yard gain.
Ole Miss lost three tight ends from its 2012 roster and signed three more. One didn’t qualify academically, another has had injury problems, and Engram had been the only newcomer to impact the position, quickly becoming a favorite target of quarterback Bo Wallace.
“It’s going to change our offense a little bit just because he was that guy that allowed us to go 11 personnel and do a lot of different things, flex them out. It hurts me not having him to stretch the field,” Wallace said.
Engram ends his freshman season with 20 catches for 265 yards and three touchdowns.
Freeze upgraded starting cornerback Mike Hilton (hamstring) to questionable.
Defensive end Cameron Whigham (stinger) and linebacker Keith Lewis are also questionable, as is running back Jeff Scott (thigh bruise).
Defensive end Carlos Thompson will not play this week, and Freeze said he is waiting on linebacker Serderius Bryant (concussion) to be cleared to play.
Jackson Callaway defensive lineman Breeland Speaks said Monday that he’d given a verbal commitment to Freeze.
Speaks (6-foot-3, 275)is rated a four-star prospect, the No. 13 defensive tackle nationally and the No. 5 player in Mississippi by Rivals.com.
He is the Rebels’ 21st commitment in a class currently ranked No. 12 by Rivals.
Jones passes test
With Senquez Golson suspended for the LSU game, freshman Derrick Jones made his second start at corner. This one wasn’t only about Jones being a big corner to match up against an opponent’s big receiver, as was the case when Jones made his first start against Texas A&M.
“I think he played almost every snap,” Freeze said. “He did some good things. It was a tough baptism by fire with Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, two very difficult match-ups, but he stayed over the top and did not get beat deep.”
Freeze said Jones gave up some passes but only missed one tackle.
“To find out on Friday morning that you’re going to play a considerable number of snaps, a true freshman against the rival team with great receivers … he passed with flying colors.”