On Wednesday, the Rebels continued their offseason practice in anticipation of the season opener against Boise State. Head coach Hugh Freeze named a starter at one of the biggest position battles on the team, the center position.
“Ben Still will start at center, but Robert Conyers is very valuable to us, and will play three positions,” Freeze said, the aforementioned positions being the right and left tackle spots as well as center. “He may be one of the most valuable pieces of us offensively because he can grasp all three of them and can function and do those well.”
Freeze said that one of the deciding factors in the battle was Conyer’s versatility.
“They’re pretty even and knowing that we’re going to rotate Robert at all three positions on various possessions, it gives us a little more flexibility,” Freeze said. “Robert probably needs to concentrate on both tackle positions between now and then and it gives the ones more reps with Ben.”
Meanwhile, there is also a position battle at wide receiver, but the winner has yet to be determined.
“We’ve still got some inconsistencies at wide receiver from some guys. We’ve got to have one other guy really step up and get in the mix,” Freeze said. “In a short amount of time, we have to get another guy ready to play there.”
The position battle is for the fifth wide receiver spot, behind sophomore Laquon Treadwell, senior Vince Sanders, sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo, and junior Cody Core. Freeze said freshmen Markell Pack and Dayall Harris, redshirt freshman Trey Bledsoe and junior Quintavus Burdette are in the mix to win the job.
Another freshman wide receiver, Sammie Epps, was recently arrested for driving without a license and possession of marijuana inside a motor vehicle.
“Sammie and I have had a long talk for the last two days. He has to understand that it is a privilege to be apart of this team, and decide what kind of brand he wants to be known for,” Freeze said. “I think Sammie is a good kid, and obviously he made a mistake.”
Epps will miss at least the opener against Boise State as a result of his arrest last Friday, Freeze added.
“He deeply regrets it. It’s an embarrassment to him and to our program. There’ll be some punishment for sure from our end,” Freeze said. “It’s disappointing any time your kids make a mistake. He definitely will be suspended at least the first game, maybe more.”
On the defensive side of the ball, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack and head coach Hugh Freeze both praised several freshman.
“I continue to be impressed by some kids like DeMarquis Gates and Marquis Haynes,” Freeze said. “I really think those guys are going to add some length and quickness to us on defense.”
Wommack zoned in on some of the reasons why Haynes has impressed so much in camp.
“His raw talent, his speed and quickness, and he’s done a good job learning what we’ve asked him to do,” Wommack said.
In addition to this, Wommack also talked about freshman A.J. Moore playing significantly his first year.
“We really didn’t expect A.J. to step up as fast as he did,” Wommack said. “He’s done a great job of learning what he’s supposed to do and I feel totally comfortable with him going into the game and playing a lot.”
Wommack also said that he plans to implement more blitzes in his defense this year.
“We weren’t able to do that last year because of the pass rush we didn’t have and because we lacked the corner play that we needed,” Wommack said. “Boise is going to see some things they haven’t seen in the last two years.”
Wommack praised the play of the secondary as well.
“I feel better about the secondary than I have in three years. I’m really pleased with the guys,” Wommack said. “We have some guys who can cover. We have some smart guys and can create different packages with those guys.”
Overall, Wommack feels the defense has a lot of promise.
“I think this is a better defensive team that has been here around the last couple of years,” Wommack said.