How do you replace an All-American tight end that holds multiple receiving records in your program’s history? That’s the question that Ole Miss will look to answer in the 2017 season with the departure of Evan Engram, who was selected by the New York Giants in the 1st round of this year’s NFL Draft.
The Rebels are six days into fall camp with the season opener right around the corner, and head coach Matt Luke feels confident about the group of tight ends on the practice field. Sophomore Dawson Knox has assumed the role of starting tight end, but Luke noted that the position has a bit more depth than it has in year’s past.
“Dawson Knox has really impressed me with his physicality,” Luke said. “He’s been throwing it up in there with no breaks. Jason Pellerin is embracing his new role. Ty Quick gives you a guy that’s really physical. Gabe Angel has made some nice plays too. Coach Harris has done a great job of getting those guys ready. We’re probably deeper than we were last year. We won’t be as top heavy, but obviously big shoes to fill with Evan leaving.”
Knox knows that nothing is guaranteed if you don’t produce on the field, and that’s the mentality he’s bringing to each practice as camp continues.
“It’s a day to day thing,” Knox said. “You have to come out with the mindset that you’re not number one, but that you’re fighting for that spot so you can really better yourself every day. I feel like the moment I get content with it; that’s when I’ll start slipping up, so I really have to go out every day with the mentality that you’re fighting for that spot.”
Knox was able to learn from Engram throughout his freshman, but the lessons went beyond the playing field.
“The biggest thing he taught me was to be humble,” Knox said. “It wasn’t technique, it wasn’t anything football related, it was just to have the character that no matter how well you’re doing, how many NFL scouts are talking to you; just keep God first, and stay humble.”
Engram was a focal point in the Rebel offense during his time in Oxford, and while the Rebels have brought in a new offensive coordinator this year, Knox anticipates a similar role for his position. Keeping with Luke’s desire to be more physical, Knox is putting in a lot of extra work as a blocker during camp.
“I trust the system, and I trust that coach Longo and he’s going to put us in the right situations,” Knox said. “I’ve been used to some of the route running and pass catching, but my focus this camp is to work on the blocking game, getting low under some people’s pads and moving them off the ball.”
Listed at 6’4, Knox laughed when asked about his size and said that he gets a slight boost from his cleats.
“The cleats help a little bit, but I’m about 6’4 or 6’5 250 pounds. I feel pretty good at 250.”
Ahead of camp opening, Luke announced that sophomore tight end Octavious Cooley has been suspended “indefinitely” for a violation of team rules. Luke said that they expect to have him back “at some point.”
Steven Gagliano is the managing editor of HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.