Position-by-position after signing day for Ole Miss …
To me, the most intriguing parts of the group going into spring drills are Davion Johnson and Daronte Bouldin.
They weren’t spectacular recruits a year ago, and they were bound for redshirt status.
Sometimes spectacular offensive lines are grounded in experience and stability when guys like this are fifth-year seniors.
They signed with a class that also included Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson, both of whom played in the season opener against Vanderbilt.
Both Bouldin and Johnson were three-star recruits, though Bouldin, of Canton, was rated a little higher than Johnson, of Byhalia, when the Clarion-Ledger named Bouldin its No. 9 in-state prospect.
It will be interesting to see how these guys figure into the quest for depth.
Tunsil is back at left tackle. The Rebels will be looking for new starters at left guard, center and right tackle. The “new starter” at left guard will likely be Aaron Morris, who was a two-year starter before tearing his ACL against Vanderbilt and missing the rest of the 2013 season.
So there will be talent and experience filling in there. Junior college transfer Fahn Cooper the best guess for right tackle, though Cooper won’t be around for spring drills and will have to wrestle the job away from someone, perhaps Johnson, who will be in the mix at right guard.
Robert Conyers, a third-year sophomore, was listed second to Pierce Burton on the Music City Bowl 2-deep.
Conyers has also spent some time at center and could figure into the mix there. From a group right tackle possibilities light on experience, he has the most at right tackle.
The group will not include UCLA transfer Christian Morris this spring. He sustained an achilles injury in a workout and had surgery. He could be back for August practice, but the Rebels still have to await word on an NCAA waiver to learn if he’ll be eligible this season.
The suddenly depleted group is not good news for OL coach Matt Luke, but it could be really good news for a guy like Johnson, who needs all the work he can get. Conyers will likely spend the spring at right tackle out of necessity.
Golson, a four-star signee a year ago, played guard last season and had off-season shoulder surgery. When healthy he could compete at center.
Bo Wallace had a great comfort zone with Evan Swindall, a three-year starter at center, and the transition to someone new with the snaps will be something to keep an eye on.
Ben Still, a rising junior but with little experience, was Swindall’s top back-up and has the most experience of available players at center.
Given the injuries, this is a position battle that may spill into August. If Still doesn’t gain Luke’s confidence don’t be surprised to see fourth-year junior Justin Bell move there if Luke believes he can more aptly fill Bell’s void at right guard.
That’s a definite possibility especially after signee Rod Taylor makes it to campus. 247 rates him a five-star signee, the others a four-star. ESPN lists Taylor as the No. 2 guard in the country, the No. 56 overall player. He is the highest-rated Ole Miss signee this season.
The class also includes tackle Tyler Putman, rated a four-star prospect by ESPN, and center Sean Rawlings, a consensus three-star prospect. Both could end up redshirting.