I like the potential of this group heading into August camp.
That assumes a rehab with no issues for left tackle Laremy Tunsil. I’ve not heard anything to think that won’t be the base, and Tunsil should be good to go at the start of what will likely be his last season at Ole Miss.
The Rebels return five starters on the offensive line, but the biggest reason for the potential is the young players behind the starters.
Collectively the starters were part of a run game that ranked 10th in the SEC, No. 73 in America. Pass protection was an issue as well.
The Rebels need to get better from guard to guard. Seniors Aaron Morris and Justin Bell are returning starters, but there will be more competition for playing time than in the recent past.
Morris is coming off a second ACL surgery. He brings a lot of experience to the table, but his conditioning at the beginning of camp could be a question.
Bell has slimmed down and looked good pulling in the Grove Bowl.
Ben Still is back at center. He made 12 starts last year.
The most notable new parts and pieces are with the guards. Javon Patterson was rated the No. 3 guard in the country and has the advantage now of having gone through spring drills. He will make an impact.
Sophomore Rod Taylor played in every game last year and had two starts.
It’s encourage for this group that the most improved offensive player award for spring went to redshirt freshman guard Jordan Sims. It speaks to the development of the group and the fact that there are more scholarship players to work with than have been available in the past.
The biggest news of spring was Jeremy Liggins’ move from tight end to left tackle.
Very little of spring practice was open for viewing, but Liggins looked comfortable – learning but comfortable – at tackle. Athleticism will do that for you.
He is being groomed as a possible replacement for Tunsil.
Robert Conyers, a fourth-year junior, missed spring with injury but will be back for August. Guys like Daronte Bouldin and Davion Johnson are a year older in the program. UCLA transfer Christian Morris has a year under his belt as well as opposed to last year when he dealt with an Achilles injury and the unknown of whether he’d be granted an NCAA waiver.
There are a couple of freshmen tackles coming in who will be likely redshirts.
Offensive line is not solely a read and react position.
Physical growth, emotional growth and experience are big attributes, and it looks like those things are more and more in place.
We’ll see soon.