OXFORD – Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze would like to see his team improve its return game and may opt for a change in personnel to get things going.
Ole Miss is last in the SEC in punt returns with an average gain of 6.1 yards. That’s not Freeze’s concern, but ball-protection is.
The Rebels’ punt return unit turned the ball over twice against New Mexico State. Once the ball touched Ole Miss redshirt freshman D.K. Buford’s ankle while he was blocking. The second time return specialist Carlos Davis fumbled.
Davis fumbled against Vanderbilt also, but Vandy was called for fair catch interference on the play.
“The No. 1 goal of your punt return unit is to have the football. Too many times this year that hasn’t been the case,” Freeze said, adding that rugby style punts have reduced opportunities for big plays across college football.
Wide receiver Markell Pack, who returned punts last year, and cornerback Tony Bridges will work at the position this week.
“We’re going to try some other people there also, but Carlos needs to regain his confidence for sure. He’s got to take control of that unit on those rugby style kicks. He’s got to get up there and be emotional about where the ball is and what’s going on. We’ve got to coach that better and help him get his confidence back,” Freeze said.
Defensive lineman D.J. Jones and tight end Evan Engram were the new additions to the injury list coming out of the New Mexico State game.
“D.J.’s in the concussion protocol. You’re never quite sure how that’s going to go. Evan’s day to day.”
Engram did not practice Sunday and will be reevaluated today.
Guard Justin Bell, wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow and running back Jaylen Walton, all held out Saturday, are expected to play.
Center Robert Conyers is day to day.
With the departure of Tee Shepard at cornerback Freeze removed the redshirt from freshman cornerback Cameron Ordway, a four-star recruit who made his debut last week.
“Cam’s come a long way. He knows the defense better than he did in camp, and he’s getting the hang of it,” cornerback Kendarius Webster said.
Ordway had five tackles and a half tackle for loss against New Mexico State.