Alex Givens

Offensive lineman Alex Givens says Ole Miss has a lot more incentive with no bowl ban.

OXFORD – Two days after representing his school and teammates at SEC Media Days, Alex Givens was laying on an operating table.

Ole Miss media relations shared earlier this week, that Givens, a senior right tackle and one of only two returning offensive line starters, has been through a “successful surgical procedure” on his lower back.

Coaches are “hopeful” that Givens will be around for the Rebels’ season opener at Memphis on Aug. 31.

Many Ole Miss fans join the coaches in their hope, because if Givens is out the Rebels’ rebuilding offensive line will lose by far its most experienced player.

Back surgery seems incompatible with college football in roughly a month, but I don’t know the details of the procedure.

Even if Givens is cleared to play his conditioning will be an issue.

Redshirt freshman Hamilton Hall is listed behind Givens on the preseason depth chart.

Youth and inexperience are abundant throughout the Ole Miss offense, but at the skill positions there’s a different kind of hope – recruiting rankings – as in four-star receivers Jonathan Mingo and Dannis Jackson and five-star running back Jerrion Ealy. Plus, established starters return at both receiver and running back.

Within the Ole Miss offense it appears there are guys who can make plays even if you don’t know their names yet.

Up front it’s a different scenario.

Ole Miss has seven freshman signees, none of whom enrolled early to go through spring drills.

Coaches have said since signing day that some in this group will have to play key roles.

Offensive line, though, is not as much a “plug and play” position as are some other spots.

The preferred scenario would be that a couple of these guys earn enough trust in August that coaches can place them in the two-deep. Hopefully along the way they practiced at a level that made some starters nervous and less comfortable with their designation.

That exciting young talent still needs someone to block, and for Ole Miss, the offensive line will go as the redshirt juniors go.

If Givens is around the left side and middle will be rebuilt with Bryce Mathews at tackle, Royce Newman at guard and Eli Johnson at center.

There are 38 appearances between them with no starts. Johnson has battled knee and ankle injuries and has been in only four games.

These guys have seen the practice side of college football for three years as they played behind older established starters.

There’s something to be said for that. It makes them different from redshirt freshmen but still with a lot to prove.

Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. Read more at DJournal.com.

parrish.alford@journalinc.com

Twitter: @parrishalford

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