PARRISH ALFORD: Ole Miss depth chart shakes out in camp

OleMissLogoOXFORD – A few thoughts and observations after two weeks of camp at Ole Miss:

Coaches talk about competition all the time, but this camp really hasn’t been about trying to win starting jobs.

Unlike a year ago, there are a lot of starters back from a winning team that finished on a high note.

There has been the job at right guard to replace Aaron Hawkins where Justin Bell has a significant edge on Patrick Junen, who has yet to go through a full practice. Junen is expected back this week.

It’s been interesting to watch defensive end, where a returning senior could be replaced by a freshman.

Held out a good bit to heal a groin injury, Robert Nkemdiche made no gigantic leap in Week 2. At the same time, Cameron Whigham, the senior, returned from injury and has gotten more reps.

Both will play extensively.

Competition has been more about No. 2 at most positions, particularly running back behind Jeff Scott.
Hugh Freeze gave the edge to speedy Jaylen Walton after Saturday’s scrimmage. Walton’s biggest advantage has been health. His primary competitors – I’Tavius Mathers and freshman Mark Dodson – have missed time with injury. Walton and Mathers, who should return this week, are both sophomores.

Do the right thing

Senior Jordan Holder, a former walk-on, keeps hanging around the two deep as well.

It will be a challenge for Holder, at 5-foot-11 and 178, to see significant snaps, but there aren’t a lot of bodies right now that coaches feel like they can trust.

There’s something to be said for knowing the system and limiting mistakes. That’s the same reason you could see sophomore John Youngblood show up.

Unlike receiver, there are a lot of bodies at defensive end, but Youngblood is a guy who does the right thing a high percentage of the time. That can’t be overstated.

Some players who have less ability than the highly rated recruits tend to be more focused and can make attention to detail a real advantage.

Tight end questions

Freshman tight end Christian Morgan (knee) returns this week. He’s so far behind it would seem he’s destined to redshirt, but Freeze hasn’t ruled out playing him.

“We don’t have very many of that body type,” Freeze said.

Morgan is 6-4, 255. With more knowledge of the system he could be the one tight end that won’t be labeled when he lines up, a guy that could legitimately block or catch.

Look for freshman Evan Engram to play a lot. He’s gifted athletically, and his blocking will be a worthwhile risk for what he can give you downfield.

At the end of the day tight end is not a bad place to have one of your question marks. You can cover it up to some degree with smoke and mirrors.

Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs at Djournal.com.