What we learned from Ole Miss spring football practice Week 2: Matt Corral can't do it all himself

Nick Suss
Mississippi Clarion Ledger

OXFORD — Two weeks of spring practices are in the books for Ole Miss football, including one where media and fans got to see it all.

An unfortunate trend has been how much easier it is to focus on which players aren't practicing than it is to analyze which players are. Minor and lingering injuries are keeping a number of significant Rebels off the field, including starters on both sides of the ball. 

Still, a few players are starting to stand out and a few question marks are beginning the process of clearing up.

Here are three things we learned from Week 2 of Ole Miss spring football:

Matt Corral can't do it all alone

Quarterback Matt Corral failed to lead a touchdown-scoring drive in five attempts in Saturday's scrimmage. He led one drive that ended in a red zone field goal, threw one interception and ended every other drive with a punt or a failed fourth down try.

It's hard to blame Corral, though. The list of skill players Ole Miss is participating without is long. Wide receivers Braylon Sanders, Jonathan Mingo and Jahcour Pearson all sat out Saturday. So did tight ends Hudson Wolfe and Casey Kelly. And running backs Jerrion Ealy and Henry Parrish. And his starting center, Ben Brown.

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One-time outside linebacker Luke Knox is playing tight end and walk-ons like receiver Brice Johnson and running back Xavier Miller are repping with the second team.

Situations like this almost certainly won't present themselves in the fall. But if you think Corral will be able to repeat his record-breaking production from a year ago without the help of most of his starting skill guys, you'd be wrong. 

Some newcomers looking, sounding good

Navy transfer Jake Springer and Itawamba Community College transfer Qua Davis started at safety and wide receiver Saturday. Junior college transfer defensive linemen Isaiah Iton and Jamond Gordon also repped with the first-team defense and logged sacks.

Davis took Elijah Moore's former spot in the slot and was Corral's favorite target on his one scoring drive. He looked fluid in motion and showed off some shiftiness catching passes underneath and taking them upfield.

Two freshman defensive backs also looked good, albeit practicing with the second team. Cornerback Markevious Brown broke on a Kinkead Dent pass and should've returned it for a touchdown had he been able to catch it, but he did come away with the pass breakup. And safety Tysheem Johnson played a number of reps with the ones and twos. 

Junior safety A.J. Finley singled Johnson, a four-star signee from Philadelphia, out as one of the newcomers he's been most impressed by in Thursday's media session. Finley also offered cornerback and fellow Alabama native Trey Washington as a freshman who has impressed him.

The offensive line isn't set yet

Sophomore Jeremy James started 10 games last year at guard, but he's bumped outside to right tackle this spring. Combine that move with Brown's absence and suddenly an offensive line returning four starters doesn't seem as steady as it did a few weeks ago.

Brown is expected to return by the end of the spring and his injury shouldn't be an issue into the fall. So when he gets back, the only hole to fill will be right guard. Junior Nick Broeker is maintaining the left tackle spot, Caleb Warren is returning at left guard, Brown is playing center and James is playing right tackle.

James said Thursday that sophomore Reece McIntyre and freshman Eli Acker have been rotating at right guard. Acker started in that spot during Saturday's scrimmage. 

Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or nsuss@gannett.com. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.