OXFORD • Ole Miss coach Matt Luke remains hopeful that he’ll have his most experienced offensive lineman when the Rebels open the season on Saturday morning.
Ole Miss kicks off at 11 a.m. at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis. If senior right tackle Alex Givens can be part of that experience, it will dramatically change the playing rotation on the offensive line.
Givens, a fifth-year senior, has 24 career starts, 17 of them at right tackle. He has been recovering from a surgical procedure on his back in mid-July and did not participate in August camp.
The Rebels, 5-7 a year ago, have installed new schemes on both sides of the ball under two new coordinators.
Luke called Givens “day to day” and said he will know more about Givens’ availability on Wednesday.
“He’s been doing a bunch of walk-throughs and everything he can conditioning-wise.”
Luke said Givens’ experience gives him a chance to be ready for the opener in spite of missing all of camp.
“Your biggest concern is the conditioning,” Luke said.
If Givens can go, it will help the Rebels boost a rebuilding front line with a little more experienced depth as either fifth-year senior Michael Howard or fourth-year senior Bryce Mathews would then come off the bench.
Freshman Nick Broeker is ready to play at one of the tackle spots. Luke said he would like Mathews to be able to spell guards Royce Newman or Ben Brown, something that is easier if Givens is starting at tackle.
Redshirt freshman Jalen Cunningham and fourth-year junior Chandler Tuitt are also backup guard candidates.
Luke and offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez spoke at length in the off-season about getting freshman offensive linemen – there are seven in all – ready to play. Only Broeker appears ready to take the plunge.
“He’s a little more mature than most freshmen with his learning curve. You could tell pretty quickly he was going to have an opportunity with his effort and toughness,” Luke said.