Parrish Alford: What’s up front will count for Rebels

OXFORD
With an Aug. 28 opener against Boise State just two weeks away, Ole Miss has shown skill at the skill positions.
How much of that it can display in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome will depend on what kind of progress the offensive line makes in the waning days of camp.
At some point this week, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze will name starters at center and right tackle.
The guess here is those will be Ben Still and Fahn Cooper, but whether they stick could be an on-going story line. Winning the job for the first game and being penciled in as a regular aren’t necessarily the same thing.
Last Saturday was only one practice, and there were things Freeze could have done from a play-calling standpoint to offset the Robert Nkemdiche Show, but the Rebels’ inconsistency in the pass game was a reminder of the work needing to be done up front.
It wasn’t only about the line.
There were several dropped passes, though Freeze didn’t seem to be targeting Laquon Treadwell or tight end Evan Engram on every play. They each had a touchdown catch, and both will be primary targets when the action is real.
Freeze also didn’t try to keep his defense honest by pursuing the run game more. It was a day to work on the passing game, and the defense knew that. It’s a fun day to rush the passer when you know what’s coming.
There’s no denying the work to be done up front, however.
Still, or Robert Conyers perhaps, will have the chance to grow at center with experienced guards on both sides in Aaron Morris and Justin Bell.
Morris’ surgically repaired knee hasn’t kept him out of work in camp, a good sign that it will hold up on game days.
Ready on the left
Left tackle Laremy Tunsil has All-America potential, something that will give quarterback Bo Wallace a feeling of confidence that Jevan Snead didn’t have the last time the Rebels began a season ranked in the major top 25 polls.
Cooper, a junior college transfer, has the physical tools and made quick strides early in camp, but not so much that Freeze has felt good enough to declare him the winner at right tackle.
Maybe naming those starters and having five linemen begin to develop chemistry as a first-team group is what the Rebels need to get over the hump.
They do need something.
The days of camp are slipping off the calendar. Soon Freeze and his staff will turn all their attention to Boise State.
Before that time comes, Ole Miss must get better up front or that talent at quarterback, receiver and running back won’t mean near as much as it should.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Journal. Read his blog at InsideOleMissSports.com.