Ole Miss was never completely settled at the center position last year.
I liked the idea of Robert Conyers there this season. The starting offensive line was supposed to be Conyers at center with Laremy Tunsil and Fahn Cooper at the tackles, a pretty good combination.
The guards were going to be a five-star freshman in Javon Patterson and probably Justin Bell. Rod Taylor was getting a lot of first-team work in camp, but coaches love them some experience, and it would not have been surprising to see Bell overtake Taylor even if Taylor had not sustained a torn labrum in a locker room boxing incident.
With either Bell or Taylor that was a first five with potential.
Of course it never worked out that way. The Tunsil thing exploded, and injuries set in. Now Conyers is done for the year.
If Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze stays true to the five he read off yesterday the group that will start against Texas A&M will be as close to that original wish list as he can get right now.
Tunsil will be back. Cooper will move to right tackle. The guards will be Patterson on the left, and Taylor on the right.
Bell, a senior who had a streak of 29 starts at one of the guard spots snapped when he sat out the Vanderbilt game, will make his first carer start center.
These guys are expected to start, but they’re not all completely healthy. Patterson has been playing through a sore ankle, and Taylor and Freeze have found that playing through a torn laburm is not an easy thing to do.
Bell seems pumped for a move to center, though.
They originally put the ball in Bell’s hands last spring but settled into a competition between Ben Still and Conyers for the 2014 season.
I asked Bell last November if we’d seen the last of him at center. He didn’t think so, and basically predicted a move like this.
“Right now with Conyers being down it gives me a chance to really focus on it and work at it and hopefully make a debut at center. To be honest, I enjoy playing center. It kind of comes natural. My first position in football was center. I wore No. 22. That was back in my Pop Warner days. I played center a little in high school my freshman year. It comes natural.”
He says going against the Ole Miss defensive line in practice off-sets his lack of game reps at the position.
“I feel like we have the best D line in the conference, and I always feel like that. We have the best D line in the nation. I’m going against the best every day in practice. I’m pretty sure that transition to the game won’t be too tough on me. Coaches spoke on it and said they love the fact that I know the offense and I know the terminology. It’s just getting the game reps. We’ll see how that goes.”