In a twist of fate a couple of Ole Miss offensive linemen may be too versatile for their own good.
Robert Conyers, a fourth-year junior, and Justin Bell, a fifth-year senior, are both working two positions — one of those positions at center — because they’re solid enough to contribute both places.
Conyers has worked most of his career at tackle, Bell at guard where he’s listed No. 1 on the right side on the preseason depth chart.
Bell, in fact, has 26 straight starts including every game last season. He started 11 games at right guard, two at left guard.
Conyers says he’s considered the possibility that he doesn’t earn a starting job because of his value as a swing player.
He talks about that and hits some other OL topics here. What he doesn’t do is name a starting quarterback.
If experienced players like Conyers and Bell buy into the swing player role it strengthens the offensive line.
Players want to play, however, and as important as the team aspect is coaches will still have to convince these guys they’re going to play key roles.
Experienced reserves are a luxury. While you have a second team offensive line to fill out a depth chart rarely does a team substitute a full line. There are typically seven or eight players in a rotation.
Senior Ben Still is currently listed as the starter at center, a place he started all 12 games a year ago.
If Conyers or Bell become the center Still could help at center or guard.
The possibility of moving Bell away from guard is there because of the confidence Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has in sophomore guard Rod Taylor.
“Rod’s one of our better linemen. As long as he understands what he’s doing, physically he’s very gifted and talented. He’s running with the ones right now, most days. We kind of just rotate it. Whoever had the better day, the depth chart is etched in sand. Rod seems to have a decent grasp of the mental apect right now. He’s not making many mistakes,” Freeze said after Monday’s practice.
Ordinarily center is not a position that subs a lot, but it was one that was never really settled last year, and that’s why you’re seeing three guys work there right now.
Bell knew this last December when he told me he expected to be getting reps at center in the spring and this August.
The guess here is Bell ends up back at guard, and Taylor, better for this August time with the ones, becomes an important reserve.
Keep listening for coach comments on the swing guys this month.