Transitioning Ole Miss offensive line gaining chemistry before biggest challenge yet

Update 5:13 p.m.

It’s an interesting offensive line that Ole Miss takes to Alabama this week.

A group that went into August with five returning starters has had upheaval at every position except right guard where senior Justin Bell has started the first two games.

There might very well have been upheaval there had sophomore Rod Taylor not gotten injured in his off-field incident in the middle of camp.

Taylor was running first team when he sustained a torn labrum. He returned to the field last week and will have surgery at the end of the year. He was getting first-team reps at right guard in viewable portions of practice today (Tuesday).

The big news up front has been the absence of Laremy Tunsil amid an NCAA investigation.

With Tunsil out indefinitely right tackle Fahn Cooper moved to the left side which meant redshirt freshman Sean Rawlings was promoted to first team.

“Sean has done solid work. He still has to improve, but he is basically a freshman. We desperately need him to play well. He has some thing to improve on. He has to get his pads lower. We will work on that this week, but we are sure he can play well,” Freeze said.

There’s also a true freshman, albeit a highly rated signee, at left guard in Javon Patterson.

The Rebels also have a center in Robert Conyers who in his first full-time year at the position is also the starter and is playing through a slight knee injury. Conyers was held out today, and the centers were Ben Still with the first group and Justin Bell with the second.

It’s this mix-and-match group that has begun to develop chemistry together and will now be asked to prove itself against a very good Alabama front seven.

Alabama is tough to run against every year, this one no different. The Crimson Tide has been dominant against the run in two games holding Wisconsin and Middle Tennessee to 2.4 yards per attempt.

Ole Miss has run the ball whenever it’s wanted against Tennessee-Martin and Fresno State. It’s unlikely the Rebels will see that measure of success in Tuscaloosa, but it’s imperative that Ole Miss find ways to run the ball effectively.

Freeze is encouraged by what he’s seen from his offensive line in two games.

“I do feel more comfortable. The more you play together the more comfortable you feel. I wish we had everybody healthy. If we had all of our guys I would feel better. Having two weeks with the guys we have had gives us a more comfortable feeling.”

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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