Toward the end of last year, there was a presence on the Ole Miss offense that was missing, freshman Tight End Evan Engram, a "field spreader" deluxe who was injured in the LSU game and did not return until the Music City Bowl. His influence is resurfacing this spring.

When the dust settled from all the hoopla, all deserved, about the 2013 signing class, not much was made of signing a 217-pound tight end out of Powder Springs, Ga.

When stacked up against the likes of Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil, Tony Conner, Laquon Treadwell and Austin Golson, the big names of the class, Evan Engram was somewhat of an afterthought.

It didn't take long, however, for the Ole Miss coaches, who recognized Evan's potential in a summer camp, and fans, to realize the under-the-radar gem of the class was Engram.

Nobody, however, expected him to surface as quickly as he did.

Except Engram. . . . who basically took over the tight end slot at Ole Miss midway through August practice.

"I trusted my talent," said Engram. "I came in and worked really hard last summer in the weight room and the coaches did a great job of transitioning me to the speed of the SEC.

"They threw me in the fire during camp and I just had to step up. It was a product of great coaching and great teammates pushing me every day. I knew the squad needed help at tight end in terms of someone who could stretch the field and I saw an opportunity."

Things were going smoothly, for a while, with Engram catching 21 passes for 268 yards and three TDs.

QB Bo Wallace and Engram had built some chemistry, the opposing defenses had to pay more attention to Engram because of his speed and the Rebel offense, for the most part, was humming, with Engram carrying his share of the load comfortably.

Then, the ankle injury and subsequent surgery, which he did not come back from until the Music City Bowl.

Evan Engram
Petre Thomas

"I was just getting into a rhythm when I got hurt," he lamented. "It was tough watching those last games, especially Missouri and Mississippi State, knowing I couldn't be out there helping my team.

"But that's life in the SEC. It happens. You just have to move on."

Not many expected Engram back for the season finale against Georgia Tech, including, at one point, Engram.

"Our training staff did a tremendous job in my rehab - every day," Engram continued. "During early bowl practices on campus, I wasn't practicing, but I was running around real well.

"Then I went home for the Christmas break and something didn't feel right when I was running around at home, but when we reported to Nashville and I got taped up and was running around the field, it felt pretty good."

Moving forward, Engram has returned full bore for spring training, with a caveat.

"During the time I was out, I lost the weight I had put on last summer. I'm just back to where I was," he explained. "I'm 222 now, but I want to be around 230-235, wherever I can keep my speed, when fall camp rolls around."

After playing a lot as a true freshman, Engram understands his strengths and what he needs to work on thoroughly.

"I want to be more physical and become more of a complete tight end. I need to gain some weight and strength to get to that point," he noted. "I have a physical mindset, but sometimes blocking 240-250-pound guys, it was hard to sustain blocks.

"I can use my speed and long arms to get in the right position, but holding blocks against some of the guys I am supposed to block was difficult at times. That's why I need more size and strength."

In the meantime, in spring ball, he keeps doing what Rebel Nation has been accustomed to seeing him do - stretch the field and make plays.

"Evan is a mismatch, because of his speed, against most linebackers, who usually have the responsibility of covering him," said Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze. "It was obvious we missed him last year when he went down."

Evan Engram
Ben Garrett

Case in point. In the first scrimmage of the spring, on the very first play, Engram released from a brush block, ran a wheel route to the sidelines beating a linebacker to a spot, Wallace hit him in stride and he went 65 yards for a touchdown.

Vintage, if you can call a play by a freshman vintage, Engram.

Engram is getting some needed help at tight end this spring with the move of bigger body Channing Ward from defensive end to tight end.

"Channing is doing an amazing job. He's picking up the offense well and he's playing very physical in the blocking game," Engram stated. "He has taken a lot of the load and pressure off of me with interior blocking. He matches up well with defensive ends and linebackers, which took a toll on me some."

Engram was not one of the ballyhooed signees from 2013, but he has been just as valuable as any of the heralded class. That was never a motivator for him.

"Nobody looks at that stuff anymore - where anyone was ranked. We are just all teammates pushing each other every day to get better," he closed. "I'm proud of my signing class. We want to do special things here, regardless of who does what.

"The only goal all of us have is to be the best we can be and help our team win."

If spring training 2014 is any indication, expect to see more from Evan Engram next season.

He has resurfaced, with a bullet.

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