There is very little information coming out of the Ole Miss football fall practices. Head coach Lane Kiffin likes to keep things close to his chest to begin with, and COVID-19 has left access at a premium. Leaks and rumors have surfaced here and there, but at the end of the day, the only people who know what’s going on inside the locker room, in the weight room and on the practice field are those who are there every day.
Fortunately, we have our resident inside-the-ropes photographer Josh McCoy (@OleMissPix) to give us some semblance of a peak. Let’s take a look at what we’ve seen from September practice:
Running backs running routes.
A running back working through a route tree in practice is not typically anything worth writing home about. However, in Kiffin’s offense, the running back plays an important role as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, but also often lines up in the slot or split out wide. It will be interesting to see how often Jerrion Ealy, Snoop Conner, Henry Parrish Jr. and maybe even John Rhys Plumlee (there is no truth to him moving positions yet, just speculation) will be used as receiving options.
Lean, mean ground and pound machine.
The other running back in what could be one of the nation’s top one-two punches also looks to be in peak playing shape. For 215 pounds, it appears to be all muscle packed in and ready to roll some heads between the tackles.
And yet, for 215 pounds, it’s well-distributed weight that won’t slow him down if he gets space down the sideline.
Ball security is job security.
The Rebels fumbled 17 times in 2019 and lost nine. Those numbers aren’t terrible, but an extra emphasis is being placed on holding onto the football in 2020.
Quarterback battle, quarterback battle, quarterback battle.
All everyone wants to know is what is happening at quarterback. Plumlee and Matt Corral are in a serious, old-fashioned competition for the starting job and both guys bring something completely different to the offense.
Everything we’ve heard thus far points to Matty Ice out-shining Vanilla Vick, but there is no telling who will take the field in week one until he takes the field in week one.
One image to note here. Plumlee, who struggled to confidently throw the ball in 2019, looks to have improved his technique.
A still photo can only show so much, but his right arm appears to be in the right spot on the back end of a backward-forward pendulum, as opposed to a roundabout motion.
Corral’s looks pretty good too.
The Big Uglies are preparing to protect.
A few things have changed since we last looked at the offensive line. With incumbent starting center Eli Johnson choosing to opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns and then announcing his intentions to transfer, the word on the street says he was not a lock to retain his role this fall. Either way, he is gone and the group is going to need to shuffle around.
Junior Ben Brown has been taking the majority of the reps in his place and will likely win the job, with redshirt freshman Jeremy James (No. 78 below) filling Brown’s spot at guard.
As of today, our best guess at the starting five would be: Nick Broeker at left tackle, sophomore Jalen Cunningham at left guard, Brown at center, James at right guard and senior Royce Newman at right tackle.
College football is not out of the woods when it comes to COVID-19. Reports out of practice say that the Ole Miss secondary has been hit hard by the virus, and Kiffin told the Pat McAfee show that two teams in the SEC would not be able to compete if the season began today. As a result of the lack of depth at defensive back, tough personnel decisions are being forced to be made.
Marc Britt, who signed with the Rebels as part of the 2020 recruiting class, played both sides of the ball in high school and has impressed the coaching staff thus far in Oxford.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound freshman has seen reps both at defensive back and with the wide receivers since camp began and has really shined. With the effect Coronavirus has had on the secondary, Britt is working with Chris Partridge and D.J. Durkin as someone who could potentially get his first career start against Florida.
Tavius Robinson is large.
When the 6-foot-7, 245-pound defensive lineman transferred to Ole Miss from Canada during the offseason, he was expected to be a positive boost to the depth at the position. With Sam Williams away from the program, Robinson has played a bigger role in the rotation than many expected, and reports say he has done a good job. He is massive.
Special teams is pure joy.
While the kicker role may or may not be up for grabs in 2020, the punter spot is locked down by our guy Mac Brown. All he does is bang boomers.
If a team’s strength and conditioning coach isn’t a little bit crazy, he isn’t a good strength and conditioning coach.
Wild West vibes.
Preparing for a duel.