While a lot of eyes are on the quarterback position, there could be good times ahead for the offensive line. In 12 games, six different players started at right guard. The last was Jared Duke, the freshman, who started the final five games.
Offensive line coach Mike Markuson is high on Duke and Patrick Junen, the walk-on. He thought enough about Junen to elevate him past fourth-year junior Alex Washington after three games.
Junen, a bright kid and a big body, held the spot for four games until he turned an ankle. From there, Markuson weighed the risk and reward of getting Junen back on the field but possibly having a setback in confidence if he got on the field and couldn’t perform because of the ankle.
While Duke appears solid at right guard, the Junen-Washington matchup will be interesting to watch in the spring.
Also of note will be what Markuson decides to do with Matt Hall, an Arkansas transfer and a four-star prospect in high school in Russellville, Ark.
“He’s got a big ol’ tackle body, but we’ll see,” said Markuson.
The Rebels will return two well-seasoned and productive tackles in rising senior Bradley Sowell on the left side and rising junior Bobby Massie on the right.
Sophomore A.J. Hawkins has now been through a season at center with 10 starts under his belt.
Collectively, the group didn’t allow many sacks, which was largely a product of Jeremiah Masoli’s ability to evade pressure. The run blocking improved as the season went on.
There should be quality depth in the making.
Coaches have always praised the ability of Emmanuel McCray, who will be a third-year sophomore next year, but were reluctant to move him inside to guard during the earlier struggles.
Redshirt freshman Michael Bradley, who missed the latter part of the season with back issues, and sophomore Josh Tatum also drew starts this year, as did true freshman center Evan Swindall.
Currently, the Rebels have four offensive line commits.
Experience is more important on the OL than at most positions. The makings are in place for a solid offensive line next year, and that’s great news for Ole Miss no matter what transpires at quarterback.