OXFORD As the early days of June arrived, Jerrion Ealy had an idea he’d be playing football this season.

Once a projected first-round pick in the Major League draft, Ealy felt confident enough in the future to move in at Ole Miss, but he still went home for a draft party with family and friends.

The early rounds clicked off without Ealy’s name, and it was on June 4, the second day of the three-day draft, that Ealy tweeted an abbreviated version of the hotty toddy cheer spreading joy to Ole Miss football fans.

“I kind of knew up front, a couple of days before the draft, that I wasn’t going where I was expected to go first,” he said. “So I was like, well, might as well come on up and get settled in and get that process out of the way.”

A five-star running back recruit from Jackson Prep, Ealy expects to be a big part of the running back rotation and to line up in the slot as well.

“I’m just ready to get started,” he said.

Ealy’s decision to attend Ole Miss was also good news for the Rebels’ baseball program. He’ll play both sports and is very clear on which will take priority next spring.

“I will not be participating in spring football this year or any year,” Ealy said. “I’ll be doing all baseball.”

THEN THERE WERE SIX

Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke has spoken at length about the need for some of his freshmen offensive line signees to progress this month and earn key roles.

One of those linemen is no longer in the mix this month.

Darius Thomas, a four-star recruit from Jonesboro and the Rebels’ highest-rated signee, was found to have a heart condition during a physical upon his arrival in May, Luke said.

“We are going to reevaluate in September. He’s going to be here in the 110 (players), and we’re hopeful he’s going to be able to play toward the end of the season,” Luke said.

Luke singled out signees Nick Broeker and Jeremy James as those he thinks are a little ahead of their fellow freshmen at this point.

REPLACING GIVENS

Thomas’ news comes days after the school announced that starting right tackle Alex Givens, a fifth-year senior, is recovering from back surgery in July. His availability for the Aug. 31 opener at Memphis is unclear.

Luke said Givens’ injury occurred in June and that surgery was the best option to get Givens back quickly. He remains “hopeful” that Givens will play against Memphis.

In his absence fifth-year senior Michael Howard will get the first chance to run with the first team.

Coaches have praised the athleticism of the 6-foot-4 Howard, but he’s struggled to put on weight. Luke says he’s in the “285 range” after adding 20 pounds in the off-season.

INJURY UPDATE

Junior cornerback Jaylon Jones is full-go after his ACL tear last September, but strong safety Montrell Custis is not.

“He still has to turn a corner. Hopefully by Week 2 he’ll be full go,” Luke said.

TE Alex Faniel (stomach issue) and OLB Luke Knox (hamstring) will be limited early on.

Knox, the brother of last year’s tight end Dawson Knox, is coming for a spot on the two-deep.

parrish.alford@journalinc.com Twitter: @parrishalford

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