OXFORD • Sometimes football is a dirty game.
It’s been a while since it’s been dirty for D’Vaughn Pennamon, though. All football has been for Pennamon since November of 2017 is a long, tough road back to health.
Now that health is here Ole Miss coaches are asking him to get dirty again.
Rebels coach Matt Luke and his offensive staff moved Pennamon, a four-star running back in the 2016 signing class, to tight end this week. The move creates the possibility of different personnel groupings while the Rebels work to vary tempo in their offense.
The last time he’d been in a three-point stance was playing fullback in youth football growing up in Texas.
“That was the last time I put my hand in the dirt,” he said.
Pennamon, though, went to the dirt hard against Texas A&M at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in November of 2017. He suffered a dislocated kneecap, an injury that caused him to miss the entire 2018 season.
This camp he had been getting reps with the first group, returning starter Scottie Phillips and backup freshman Jarod “Snoop” Conner. Offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez had praised the much-lighter Pennamon – down from 238 to 216 after the injury – for a “natural” running style.
“Playing with multiple personnel sets is something we want to look at doing. It really depends on if we have the type of guys we think we can win with, and we’re giving him a shot there,” Rodriguez said.
But the Rebels helped themselves in the 2019 signing class more at running back than at tight end, and a concussion the first full week by second-team tight end Jason Pellerin showed the need for depth there.
Pennamon wants to help the team but also to find his best path to the field.
The coaches asked, “Would you be opposed to moving to possibly get more playing time and really work on your craft?’ I said, ‘it’s to help the team and better myself where I can get some film, I’m down for it, I’ll do it.’ Whatever it takes. I just want to win,” Pennamon said.
A consensus four-star signee out of Houston, Pennamon had averaged 6 yards a carry over two games and was averaging 7 yards against the Aggies when he got hurt.
If Pennamon trusts the rebuilt knee and shows he can still block, catch and run his career could finally take off.
“There’s no doubt in my mind about my knee,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to actually getting some contact. Not teammate contact, because a teammate is going to kind of look out for you whether we’re live or not, but the other teams, they don’t really care about me. At the end of the day I’m ready to see what they’re going to do and how this leg is going to hold up against someone else.”