I see that the Ole Miss Spirit this morning is reporting that junior college signee Fahn Cooper will need the spring semester of juco to get his grades in order and will not participate in drills with the Rebels.
If true it’s a setback, a minor one, for a rebuilding offensive line.
There’s also the uncertainty of the Christian Morris issue. The UCLA transfer is seeking a waiver to play in 2014. Morris can go through drills while awaiting word from the NCAA. He did not appear in any games at UCLA.
Having Cooper in the spring would be a plus for an Ole Miss team seeking a starter at right tackle.
It’s an interesting transition for an Ole Miss offensive line that, while improved, did allow 2.08 sacks per game last year, 11th in the SEC.
Since freshman Laremy Tunsil won the job at left tackle midway through the season, there’s a starter returning on that side. A pretty good one in fact.
The anticipated return of Aaron Morris, who tore his ACL in the season opener against Vanderbilt, provides three guards right away that will have Matt Luke’s confidence. However, one of them, rising sophomore Austin Golson, is coming off shoulder surgery. It was reported in early December as minor with the possibility that Golson will be able to participate in spring drills.
There’s usually a silver lining in things like this, and it would likely mean more work for redshirt freshman Daronte Bouldin and Davion Johnson.
There were differing opinions on Bouldin and Johnson coming out of high school but solid reviews nonetheless. Bouldin was rated the No. 49 offensive tackle by Scout, the No. 72 tackle by ESPN. Johnson was listed as the No. 39 offensive tackle by Scout, the No. 84 tackle by ESPN.
Another big question mark on this line is center. Evan Swindall was dependable at the position for three years. His primary back-ups, Ben Still and Robert Conyers, didn’t play much. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Justin Bell, a rising junior who started 13 games and played both guards last year, make the move to center.
In a best-case scenario Cooper arrives, presumably in the summer, and learns the system and his teammates quickly. Christian Morris is cleared and also competes on the right side.
Aaron Morris and Austin Golson show no effects from their injuries.
Bouldin and Johnson develop.
With that many moving parts it’s rare that all things work out the way they need to work out.
Building an offensive line takes a time, however, and there are parts and pieces to work with.
If Luke can get them eligible, healthy and in the right places you might seen more consistency from a group that did a nice job moving the football — fifth in the SEC in total offense — but had some struggles close to the goalline — 13th in the SEC in Red Zone offense.