OXFORD – Some positions battles have concluded, some reserves have been challenged, and one freshman wide receiver – Sammie Epps – will be suspended.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze says junior Ben Still will be his starting center when the No. 18-ranked Rebels open the season a week from today against Boise State.
Andrew Fletcher has claimed one part of what will be a two-player approach at kicker.
Epps was arrested last week on charges of driving without a license and possession of marijuana. He’ll miss the Boise State game, and his role moving forward is unclear.
Still held off third-year sophomore Robert Conyers who will still play an important role, Freeze says, as the primary back-up at both tackles and center.
It’s been a close competition between Still and Conyers all month. Eventually one of them was going to be the winner.
“Robert may be one of the most valuable pieces to us offensively because he can grasp all three of those positions and function very well,” said Freeze following Wednesday’s morning workout.
In addition to center, the Rebels have found a place-kicker, at least for short field goal attempts and extra points. It’s Fletcher, a senior from Nashville and transfer from Louisville where he was part of the program but did not see action.
“It’s just his accuracy, and his get-off time is very consistent, under 1.3 (seconds). He’s just been the most consistent,” Freeze said.
Longer field goal attempts will come from either redshirt freshman Andy Pappanastos or true freshman Gary Wunderlich.
Freeze is hoping someone will jump up and claim available playing time at receiver.
The starters are set with Laquon Treadwell and Vince Sanders outside. Quincy Adeboyejo and Cody Core will share time at the slot receiver.
Finding depth has been an on-going search since the beginning of camp. Freshmen Dayall Harris and Markell Pack, redshirt freshman Trey Bledsoe and junior Quintavius Burdette, a former defensive back, are the candidates.
“We need one of those four to get ready,” said Freeze, adding that he will evaluate those players right up until game day.
Epps would have been in that mix if not for the arrest. The Greenwood native was moved from tight end to slot receiver early in camp where it was hoped his 6-foot-5 frame would create a match-up advantage against smaller defensive backs.
“He definitely will be suspended at least for the first game, maybe more,” Freeze said.
Epps was not at practice Wednesday. Falling behind at this time of year could lead to a redshirt season for the four-star signee.
“My initial thought was absolutely yes, but I’m not saying yes to that just yet. I want to be sure I take my time and think through it,” Freeze said.