By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – The first Ole Miss conference road win since 2009 was hard-fought, and there’s evidence from both camps today.
Arkansas coach John L. Smith had an idea he would be without a couple of players as tight end Chris Gragg and running back Knile Davis did not play in the second half of the Rebels’ 30-27 win over the Razorbacks.
Against Ole Miss, Gragg aggravated a knee injury, and Davis sustained a hamstring injury. Both are expected out for the Razorbacks against Tulsa this week.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze was a little more optimistic with cornerback Senquez Golson (concussion) and defensive end Cameron Whigham (bone bruise).
When Golson left the Arkansas game, Wesley Pendleton – a former starter – entered. Pendleton left the game on Arkansas’ final drive, and the Rebels were down to their third corner, Cliff Coleman.
Freeze listed Pendleton as “very doubtful.”
Mackey at the slot
The slot receiver position has been a struggle to fill since the Rebels lost a dependable starter, sophomore Collins Moore, to a shoulder injury on the second day of August practice.
Former quarterback Randall Mackey started at slot receiver against Arkansas, becoming the sixth different player to start at the position. He was preceded by Korvic Neat, Jamal Mosley, Jeff Scott, Philander Moore and Ja-Mes Logan.
“That was something a little new we tried to get our best players on the field,” Freeze said. “We had a small package with them (Mackey and Scott) doing that. Mackey seemed to thrive in it.”
Mackey, listed as the No. 2 running back this season, had seven catches for 99 yards.
Special teams improve
Freeze said several personnel moves contributed to improved coverage by the kickoff team against Arkansas.
The Rebels went into Little Rock last in the SEC in kickoff coverage, their five touchbacks among the fewest in the league and their 30.4-yard average field position gain the lowest.
Freshman running back Carlos Davis made the unit faster, and freshman Channing Ward, at a kickoff team spot that often draws double teams, made the unit more physical, Freeze said.
“We changed a few schemes on punt protection too, and that was beneficial for us also,” Freeze said. “Mainly it’s us continuing to work and getting kids that might be a little fresher on those teams.”
The Rebels moved up a notch to 13th in kick coverage in this week’s statistical release.