OXFORD – Ole Miss coach Matt Luke has been spending time in familiar territory early in August camp.

Luke, once a Rebels center who would later coach the position at Ole Miss and elsewhere, is trying to help his staff get several true freshmen ready to provide depth in the season opener at Memphis.

In a perfect scenario this season the Rebels must still replace three starter off the line.

The situation, though, is far from perfect.

Senior right tackle Alex Givens, by far the team’s most experienced lineman, was forced to have mid-July back surgery to correct a late June training injury.

Luke and his staff remain hopeful that Givens will be available for some role against Memphis.

Last week the line thinned again when freshman Darius Thomas, the highest-rated of seven offensive line signees, was subtracted from the mix because of a heart condition that came to light during a routine physical after he reported to campus in May.

“Some of the young guys have to great ready quicker, and some of the old guys have to step up,” Luke said.

Multiple options are on the table in terms of building depth. Luke said he’s been spending “a little bit” more time with the linemen than he would otherwise.

“Again, they’re young, so the more the better. I’ve enjoyed that part of it, me getting back there,” he said.

At his press conference last week Luke said tackles Nick Broeker and Jeremy James are the farthest along of the freshmen.

Broeker on the left and James on the right are running with the second team right now. Freshman Bryce Ramsey is at center. Redshirt freshman Jalen Cunningham (left) and fourth-year junior Chandler Tuitt (right) fill out the second team.

Other Observations

The Rebels put on shoulder pads for the first time Monday and are expected to go in full gear for the first time Wednesday.

Thomas, a Jonesboro native, has dressed and gone through stretch – but nothing else – in each of two practices which have been partially open to media.

Thomas did not wear shoulder pads. …

Sophomore Jonathan Hess, a former outside linebacker, has been mixing in with some reps at second-team tight end.

The top two are clearly Octavius Cooley and Jason Pellerin. Who might play after that – and possibly be targeted – is anybody’s guess.

Cooley had eight catches for 172 yards and a touchdown last season.

Pellerin, a former quarterback and now a senior, has forever been that guy at tight end that coaches have described as athletic and said they’ve got to get on the field – but never have. …

There’s been a lot of talk about running back depth for this team, and while some of it’s young, I do think running back might be the team’s deepest position with players who could contribute.

With such you have the inevitable shifting on the depth chart.

For now Isaiah Woullard, last year’s primary backup and the starter for two games, has not been getting the same reps and used in the same rotation as freshman Jarod Conner and junior D’Vaughn Pennamon.

Conner was a running quarterback at Hattiesburg High. He was actually rated the No. 3 running back prospect in Mississippi on the 247Sports Composite list. He enrolled early and had a good spring.

Pennamon, once close to 230 pounds, is listed at 5-11, 216. A four-star signee in the Class of 2016, he missed all of last season after a major knee injury late in his freshman season. …

Junior cornerback Jaylon Jones is not running with the first team at the moment. The top two corners are senior Myles Hartsfield and sophomore Keidron Smith.

parrish.alford@journalinc.com

Twitter: @parrishalford

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