As Ole Miss enters game week against Southeast Missouri State, the Rebels will be tasked with replacing two starters in junior offensive guard Aaron Morris and sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche.
"We didn't experience injuries last year very much, but now right off the bat we're faced with adversity with Aaron Morris being done for the year," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "The worst part of our game is to see how much effort they put in during the offseason and then they get to go play in front of everyone and to get that news is not easy."
Morris, Freeze said, does have a redshirt available, so hopefully they can get him a medical redshirt and still have two years to play.
In his absence, four players -- seniors Patrick Junen and Jared Duke, sophomore Justin Bell and freshman Austin Golson -- will rotate at guard. Senior Emmanuel McCray, who got the start at left tackle, will also work inside, with freshman Laremy Tunsil's impressive college debut at tackle.
"Laremy graded extremely high after the Vanderbilt game, and Austin was about average," Freeze said of the freshman offensive linemen. "Austin's effort was phenomenal, he pulled the wrong way a couple of times but those are things a normal freshman will do, especially while playing inside. Inside a lot of things can go on and he's only been taking reps there for about a week and a half, but I was real pleased with his effort and focus."
Nkemdiche's injury, Freeze said, not season-ending, so they feel like he will be back, best case four weeks, worst case six weeks. Juniors Keith Lewis and Serderius Bryant will fill his spot at Stinger linebacker.
Lewis, the Rebels' starting Wolf linebacker, played mostly in 4-3, nickel and dime defensive sets, while Bryant sat behind Nkemdiche on last week's depth chart at Stinger linebacker
"It's the loss of the leadership and the loss of a very bright individual, but we have that in me and (Bryant) as well," Lewis said. "Me and (Bryant) combined can make up for the loss."
Senior D.T. Shackelford, who returned from a two-year absence due to knee injuries, played both linebacker and defensive end and will now focus solely on linebacker while Nkemdiche recovers from injury.
"I was pleased, we've shuffled him around a lot," Freeze said. " By the end of the opening week I would like to be settled on exactly where guys will play, and now with the injuries we have to move guys around again. He made a few mistakes on his fits but he played with phenomenal effort and now that he's beginning to settle in I think he'll be fine."
Sophomore Quintavius Burdette and senior Dehendret Collins got the start at field and boundary corners, respectively, against Vanderbilt. Going forward, Freeze said they will keep moving guys around and hopefully getting some guys, like senior Charles Sawyer and junior Senquez Golson, healthy.
"I think everybody that watched the game saw that when Senquez Golson can go we are much better," Freeze said. "We were trying kids that had never played snaps, and I think they're going to be good. We have to get Charles Sawyer healthy, and we'll try moving guys from the husky over to the boundary corner."
Freeze said Golson (hamstring) looked good in practice Monday and that Sawyer (shoulder) is closer to getting healthy as well.
"Right now, I feel like I don't any limitations," Golson said of his hamstring injury. "I mean I'm not feeling 100 percent, but I feel like I'm good enough to go... It was sore. I think I just had to loosen it up a little bit. The first deep ball that I had against Matthews was the first time I had opened up and ran in two or three weeks. After that play, I had more confidence and was good to go."
In addition to getting healthy, there will also be movement at the position this week.
Collins, whose eyes, Freeze said, "were pretty bad at times" at cornerback against Vanderbilt will move back to Huskie, where he played last season.
Sophomore Mike Hilton, who got the start at Huskie, will move to cornerback, where he played some last season and also got some reps at during fall practice. Freeze also noted sophomore Anthony Standifer and freshman Bobby Hill as other options at cornerback.
"We got some changes to make and figure out who we have where," Golson said of the cornerback position. "We had Mike Hilton and Tony Conner at the same spot. We need both of those guys on the field at the same time."
Freshman wide receiver Laquon Treadwell was named SEC Freshman of the Week after leading Ole Miss in receiving with nine catches for 82 yards in his first college game. His nine catches were an Ole Miss freshman record and most by a Rebel since Mike Espy had nine against Auburn in 2005.
Treadwell hauled in a pass on three straight players and four to of five in one stretch in the third quarter, including a one-handed grab.
"That's him," Wallace said of Treadwell. "That's why he was the number one receiver recruit in the nation. That's what he does. He's not just terribly fast, but he has great ball skills, and you just have to give him a chance."
The play immediately after that stretch, which ended in the Rebels' second touchdown, Wallace completed a nine-yard pass to freshman tight end Evan Engram, who finished with five catches for 61 yards, which were both second-most on the team.
"He's a stud," Wallace said of Engram. "He had a great game, and he just has to keep building on that. He's a huge playmaker in our offense. He creates mismatches for us.
Engram, along with junior Donte Moncrief, also made the key block to spring junior running back Jeff Scott on his 75-yard, game-winning touchdown run with 1:07 left.
"As soon as he was here in 7-on-7, we saw how good of a receiver he was going to be. As small as he was, I was kind of worried about his blocking, but as you saw against Vanderbilt, he did a great job."
Holder Makes His Mark
A former walk-on, senior wide receiver Jordan Holder ran with the first-team during most of camp, worked his way on to the two-deep, and then quickly made an impact this season, catching a 4-yard pass from Wallace on the first offensive play of the game against Vanderbilt.
"I looked up and had to pinch myself for a second because Bo just slung it right at me," Holder said of the catch. "I'm happy that I caught it and got that out of the way, so we could play."
That 4-yard pass was also the first in his career, and he finished the game with three catches for 20 yards, having previously played in just two games. He played significant snaps in the slot, along with Treadwell and Engram.
"Whenever I was sticking with 1's during most of camp," Holder said of when he realized he was going to play this year. "That's when I kind of knew. I never wanted to get my hopes up because I had been there before the past couple of years, but I just stuck to it, and it finally worked out for me."
At 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, Holder was asked about what he brings to the wide receiver position, and Holder noted his physical abilities, but also his awareness and knowledge of coverages.
"I may not look as fast as I am, but I definitely think I am deceptive with my speed, and my quickness and hands," Holder said. "You got to catch everything that comes your way.
"When you do it as long as I have been here, you pick things up that most people may not know, as far as if a blitzer is coming, or a safety is dropping down on top of you. Things like that, seeing what coverages are, so you know how to run your routes."
Holder was also a unanimous selection for one of five available scholarships for walk-on players, Freeze said last week. But when his name was called, he gave the scholarship to fellow senior and walk-on tight end Justin Bigham.
"It was a definitely an honor," Holder said. "It was something I always wanted to earn and work for. I was just happy to get it. What I did for Bigham, I was happy I was able to be in that position to help him out because he's a great guy and he's earned it just as much as I have, or anybody else has, so he deserved it.
"He was sitting right beside me when they announced mine, and they never called his name. I felt sick to my stomach because we started off together, and I definitely wanted him to have one."