OXFORD, Miss. — With freshmen making up 41 percent of Ole Miss’ scholarship roster, it should come as no surprise the Rebels will be asking several youngsters to play big roles on the team this fall. Offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez tells The Rebel Walk he expects “…upwards of ten to twelve (freshmen) playing on offense (this fall).”
Here are six players we believe have the best chance of making the 2019 SEC All-Freshman Team at the conclusion of the 2019 season.
No. 1 – Quarterback Matt Corral – Redshirt Freshman
Matt Corral is without a doubt the starting quarterback this fall for the Ole Miss Rebels. In a QB room with four scholarship freshmen—three of whom are true freshmen—Corral is the only quarterback on the roster with game experience. The Ventura, California native competed in four contests last fall, including two SEC games (South Carolina and Mississippi State), and preserved his redshirt season.
The 6-foot-1, 206-pound quarterback has looked calm and poised in the pocket as he continues to make strides from spring training to fall camp.
Corral also looked poised as he represented the Rebels as the only freshman in the league in attendance at SEC Media Days this past July in Hoover.
Senior defensive back Myles Hartsfield recently spoke highly about the redshirt freshman quarterback. “Matt has definitely grown,” said Hartsfield. “I’ve seen him grow from last year until now. It’s like a different person, really,” he continued.
“You’re seeing him fit balls in where last year he wouldn’t have been able to. I see how he’s been working in the off-season and gotten better seeing, dissecting defenses, seeing where the wide receiver is going to be before they’re there. I would say he’s up there with the best. He’s worked for it and he’s earned it.”
Myles Hartsfield on Matt Corral
No. 2 – Wide Receiver Miles Battle – Redshirt Freshman
Heading into fall camp, Miles Battle was listed as one of the starters at wide receiver, opposite of Braylon Sanders. He has continued to shine in practice during camp.
As a true freshman at Ole Miss last season, the 6-foot-4, 199-pound Battle appeared in four games, including games against SEC opponents Texas A&M and Auburn, so he still maintained his redshirt.
Coach Peeler believes Battle’s redshirt season will pay dividends for the talented wide receiver. “He got thrown into some big moments,” Peeler said of Battle. “And they weren’t always against non-conference foes, so he did get some SEC experience,” the coach noted.
Yes, the Rebels have to find a way to replace the production of last year’s star receivers A.J. Brown, DaMarkus Lodge, and DK Metcalf, who have all gone on to NFL careers, but Battle believes he and his young teammates are prepared for the challenge.
“We want the whole group to shine; we don’t care which individual it is. We’re all talented players and we’re just ready to show what we can do. With those three guys (Brown, Metcalf and Lodge), we had some depth–we just didn’t get to play. We all have something to show and something to prove.”
Wide receiver Miles Battle
No. 3 – Running Back Snoop Conner – True Freshman
Jarod “Snoop” Conner has had an incredible fall camp. The true freshman has worked his way up to the No. 2 spot behind senior running back Scottie Phillips.
The 5-foot-10, 216-pound Conner early enrolled back in January, allowing him to go through spring practices. In the Grove Bowl, he led the team with 52 rushing yards on 10 attempts and made two catches for 12 yards.
Conner’s spring performance helped set the stage for him to move up the depth chart in fall camp. “In the spring I was moving, but didn’t really know what I was doing,” he said. “Now that I’m in fall camp, I’m better prepared for it,” Conner explained.
Conner has the ability to move the pile between the tackles as well as play in open space and catch balls when called upon — something Coach Rich Rod might take advantage of early in Conner’s career.
No. 4 – Wide Receiver Jonathan Mingo – True Freshman
Jonathan Mingo, at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, already has the body of an SEC wide receiver. Wide receivers Coach Jacob Peeler raves about Mingo’s ball skills. “Jonathan creates physical mismatches,” he said.
“He reminds you a lot of A.J. Brown in terms of his size. He played in a really good high school system that allowed him to utilize his skill set.”
Coach Jacob Peeler on Mingo
The comparisons to A.J. Brown don’t stop with Coach Peeler. Senior defensive back Myles Hartsfield also says the true freshman wide receiver reminds him a lot of 2nd Round NFL Draft pick Brown. “A guy that reminds me of A.J. (Brown) would be (Jonathan) Mingo,” said Hartsfield.
“At the top of the route he’s strong and physical. If he gets his hands on the ball, it’s hard to rip away from him. I would say that group is coming along. I wouldn’t have any worries right there,” Hartsfield added.
Coach Rodriguez almost went as far as saying Mingo would be a starter as a true freshman this fall. “He’s going to play an awful lot as a true freshman,” said the offensive coordinator. “He may be starting, I don’t know, but he’s definitely going to be in the mix.”
No. 5 – All-Purpose Jerrion Ealy – True Freshman
During fall camp, Ealy has cemented himself in the running back rotation. The coaching staff is so confident with freshman running backs Conner and Ealy that junior D’Vaughn Pennamon has been moved from running back to tight end.
Running backs coach Derrick Nix talked with The Rebel Walk about the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Ealy earlier this month at Media Day. “I’ve been impressed with him so far,” said Nix.
“The thing that I can gauge that I’ve seen so far is the way that he conditions himself during the summer. He was up front leading the pack a lot. In his group, he was the first one in line in drills. You can see his speed and quickness in drills. He’s eager to play,” Nix added.
The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Ealy will be used in the slot, as well, which is why he is listed as an all-purpose back on this list. The highly touted five-star athlete says the pressure of competing against SEC competition doesn’t make him nervous. “I don’t let pressure get to me,” he said.
“I don’t let pressure define me. I just go out there and play. What my results are on the field are what God wants them to be. Whatever He wants me to do, that’s all I can do.”
No. 6 – Defensive Tackle K.D. Hill – Redshirt Freshman
The 6-foot, 306-pound defensive tackle played in two games for the Rebels last fall before being redshirted. While he wasn’t listed on the two-deep heading into fall camp (Quentin Bivens was listed as the No. 2 at nose tackle behind senior Benito Jones), Hill’s performance in camp has moved him up the roster into the backup role.
And although Hill has moved up the roster, he’s not going to become complacent. “I’m just going to continue to work hard and not be satisfied with where I’m at and just let it go where it goes,” said Hill.
“I’ve gotten better, but I have to just continue to work on the small things. You can never be satisfied.”
While we wouldn’t be at all shocked to see some of the other freshmen on the Ole Miss team make the 2019 SEC All-Freshman Team, the above six young men have drawn enough praise from the coaches in fall camp to justify these picks.