The official season doesn’t kick off for another month and a half, but Ole Miss head football coach Matt Luke said it’s never too early to prepare for the season.
Luke told reporters during SEC Media Days that their emphasis will be on making a statement against early in the season Memphis in the season opener and Arkansas immediately after.
“I think it’s very important to get off to a good start. Really we’re focused on the first one,” he said. “I think opening with an opponent like Memphis, very similar to last year with an opponent like Texas Tech, I think the guys prepare because they know they have a very good team to get ready for.
“It gives you a little bit more of a sense of urgency in those fall camp practices.”
The first stretch of the season will say a lot about this team and Luke will depend on a talented, but young group of players at key positions.
Evidence of this comes in the players they’ve brought to SEC Media Days this week. While MoMo Sanogo had 112 total tackles in 2018 and Alex Givens has been a part of the rotation in the offensive front for a while, the most important question on the team is Matt Corral.
It’s rare that a freshman makes the trip to Alabama for media days, but it’s appropriate because the Rebels’ success in 2019 is directly tied to Matt Corral’s production.
“We might be the only team in the country with four freshman quarterbacks,” Luke said. “It is a young group, but Matt being able to play in those four games (with the) redshirt rule really benefited him to be able to get some experience and get his feet wet and I think you could see the difference that made in the spring with how he progressed.”
He’ll also have the benefit of a dynamic one-two punch in Scottie Phillips and Jerrion Ealy lining up next to him in the backfield.
“(Jerrion Ealy) is obviously a very talented guy that all of our fans are excited about,.” Luke said. “But the thing that’s unique about him is he can do so many different things. He can line up in the slot, he can line up in the backfield. He can catch balls out of the backfield, He can run speed sweeps. There’s so many things you can do so we look forward to find a way to get him the ball in space.”
Luke also said that the team is as close to 100% as it could be after a few injuries lingered in the spring.
“I think we’re getting guys like Benito (Jones) and Josiah (Coatney) back that sat out. (Vernon) Dasher and Armani (Linton) are back. Jaylon Jones and Custis are both full speed so it’s good to see those guys all out and conditioning.”
The program around Luke feels reborn with the new coordinators moving into Oxford as the NCAA storm moves out. The staff was able to sign 31 players to get back to a full roster and they’ll have the opportunity to experience postseason football.
The 2019 represents a new groove for Ole Miss as Luke is able to talk about football rather than NCAA sanctions at SEC Media Days.
“I think all those things provide energy and a confidence level around our building, almost a sense of normalcy that we can just go play football so I’m excited about that.”