Personnel is a given, but schemes could change as well in the Ole Miss secondary.
The Rebels have a short week to put a difficult loss behind them and prepare for an FCS opponent, Wofford, for Saturday’s home opener in the new bowled-in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Ole Miss sustained two season-ending injuries in Monday’s 45-34 loss to Florida State: Cornerback Kendarius Webster and running back Eric Swinney.
Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack called Webster his best cover corner.
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With young reserves moving in and out and senior starter Tony Bridges playing out of position the Seminoles — with a redshirt freshman quarterback in his first start — passed for 419 yards.
“When Ken went down Tony was forced to go to the boundary some, and that’s not his normal deal. He struggled some himself,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “We need him to come on, improve his technique and try to lead those younger guys.”
Bridges had 11 starts last season, his first after transferring from Gulf Coast Community College.
Focus turns to redshirt freshman Jalen Julius or true freshman Jaylon Jones as the likely replacement for Webster.
This week’s opponent runs an option-based offense and won’t give a good read on play in the Ole Miss secondary. Wofford attempted just eight passes in a 21-7 win over Tennessee Tech last week.
Ole Miss ranked No. 13 in the SEC in passing yards allowed last season. Efforts to improve after a poor performance in the first game won’t be limited to mixing and matching players.
“As coaches we’re our own worst critics. You have to look at what you’re doing,” Freeze said. “Our kids did not understand some of it or did not have the capabilities to perform the tasks. We as coaches have to look at that and make sure we make corrections there.”
Jones to corner?
Freeze acknowledged that he’s considering moving senior wide receiver Derrick Jones to corner to help with depth there after the injury to Kendarius Webster.
Jones played the position in 2013 but was moved to wide receiver early in 2014. He’s caught 11 balls the last two years. He was listed second to Damore’ea Stringfellow on the preseason depth chart but did not make the two-deep leading into the Florida State game.
Will Patterson play? Freeze, as he was through the off-season, remains non-committal on plans for Shea Patterson, the No. 1 quarterback in the 2016 recruiting class.
“He and I will sit down Friday, and we’ll have a conversation. We’ll see kind of where that goes,” Freeze said.
Reshuffling at running back: The injury to backup running back Eric Swinney means freshman D’Vaughn Pennamon will not redshirt. Freeze said he expects Pennamon to play Saturday against Wofford.
Oxford native D.K. Buford, a third-year sophomore, could also get into the mix.
Pennamon and Buford are both bigger than Swinney, who checked in at 210 pounds.
Eugene Brazley played a little against Florida State after the Swinney injury. He gained 3 yards on two attempts.