Matt Luke

Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke will be counting on freshmen in his offensive line.

With experience in short supply on offense, Rebels coach Matt Luke and new coordinator Rich Rodriquez are counting on the personality of self-confidence in redshirt freshman Matt Corral to set a “can do” tone on offense.

Luke says that comes easily for Corral, and that players have naturally gravitated to him as he’s been “thrust into a leadership role.”

Corral, a redshirt freshman, is one of four freshman scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.

There are no plans at this time for true freshman quarterback John Rhys Plumlee to play defense.

Big plans for Ealy

Ole Miss fans celebrated in June when it became clear the five-star running back would put pro baseball plans on hold.

“He can do so many different things, and we look forward to finding ways to get him in space,” Luke said.

#Broeker has a slight edge

Luke has said repeatedly that he’ll look for freshman offensive linemen – seven will join the mix when practice starts – to provide depth and fill key roles.

Full-scale practices won’t begin until Aug. 1, but for now, Alex Givens, a fifth-year senior and the starter at right tackle, believes tackle Nick Broeker is a little ahead of the pack.

“He’s been working really hard and looking good,” Givens said.

A three-star prospect from Springfield, Illinois, Broeker committed to Ole Miss early in the process and received interest from Ohio State closer to signing day.

Givens says the freshmen face a big challenge to get ready to play.

“It’s very hard. My first year I was not ready to come in,” he said.

#No slow go for Jaylon Jones

Cornerback Jaylon Jones is full speed now after last year’s ACL tear in the season opener. He will have to clear the mental hurdles of making cuts and taking a hit, but Luke said Jones, the Rebels’ best defensive back at the time of his injury, will handle all necessary tasks including special teams.

#Optimism at linebacker

The position that has been the epicenter of the Rebels’ defensive struggles in recent seasons – linebacker – now puts four on the field in the new 3-4 scheme.

Luke is optimistic that linebacker will become a productive position. He believes Qaadir Sheppard, who moves from defensive end, is a better fit at the stand-up position of outside linebacker and that junior college transfer Sam Williams will make a quick impact.

With four linebackers on the field the inside backers, in theory, will be required to play “in space” less and will be in position to be sure tacklers.

MoMo Sanogo, last year’s leading tackler, senior Willie Hibbler and Jacquez Jones, freshman All-SEC last year, will work their way into the rotation, and junior college transfer Lakia Henry, rated the No. 1 juco inside linebacker, is also expected to contribute.

parrish.alford@journalinc.com Twitter: @parrishalford

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