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Freshman class gives Ole Miss hope

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Ole Miss did not do anything to help its present by losing to No. 1 Alabama, but it did get a hopeful glimpse of the future.

Every touchdown Ole Miss scored against Alabama came from a true freshman.

Ole Miss is getting an incredible amount of production from its 2019 recruiting class. The Rebels lost 59-31 on the road in Tuscaloosa, but there were positives to bring back with them to Oxford and at 2-3 through the opening five games, the season isn’t lost yet.

“We just have to go build on it. There’s too many seniors to say we’re just going to build (for the future),” Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said. “We have a fan base that wants to win, so that’s what we’re going to try to go do. We’re going to put our guys in the best position to go win. And these freshmen are just going to keep getting better.”

True freshman John Rhys Plumlee got his first start at quarterback against Alabama. He showed enough, throwing two touchdowns and adding one more on the ground, to get the coaching staff to say he’d have a chance at seeing playing time even when Matt Corral returns from a rib injury that kept him sidelined last Saturday. Ole Miss hosts Vanderbilt this weekend.

Plumlee was 10-of-28 passing for 141 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He ran for 109 yards and a TD on 25 carries. His 25 rushing attempts were the most by an Ole Miss quarterback since at least 1997.

Ole Miss’ first touchdown of the day came on Plumlee’s 1-yard rush. Later, Plumlee connected with Jerrion Ealy for a 9-yard TD pass score. He then hit Jonathan Mingo down the left sideline for a 26-yard touchdown.

Plumlee, Ealy and Mingo are not just true freshmen, but true freshmen from the state of Mississippi.

Late, with the game well out of hand, it was Grant Tisdale who got some work at quarterback. He hit Jadon Jackson on a 28-yard touchdown for the final Ole Miss score — two more true freshmen from the 2019 recruiting class.

Ealy finished with 11 carries for 68 yards, and Mingo caught three passes for 74 yards. Tisdale was 2-for-2 passing for 56 yards and a touchdown.

“These guys, you’re talking about true freshmen that are playing for the first time in this kind of environment. They have a lot of work to do, but they’re eager and they’re great guys,” offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez said. “We have some good young players and that’s exciting for the future. It’s disappointing right now because we know we can play better. But when you see what the future holds for Ole Miss, Ole Miss football, I think you can be excited when you look at those young guys.”

It’s not just the guys scoring the football. Ole Miss is getting help from a handful of places from these young guns.

True freshman Nick Broeker has yet to make a start, but has been playing about half of the left tackle snaps over the past three weeks.

Snoop Connor, the Rebels’ third running back who’s accounted for 154 rushing yards, is a true freshman from Hattiesburg. Deantre Prince, a true freshman cornerback from Charleston, Miss., earned more consistent playing time against Alabama after intercepting a ball against Arkansas in his first action. And there others, including A.J. Finley, who have seen time on defense after earning it on special teams.

“We have a lot of talent, for sure,” Plumlee said. “If we can work on the little things, and get really good at the little things, I think we have the potential to be really special.”

VANDERBILT AT OLE MISS

• Saturday, 6:30 p.m.

• TV: SEC Network