OXFORD – Camp is over, and attention at Ole Miss is turning to Vanderbilt, the Rebels’ Aug. 29 opponent.
That doesn’t mean that competition is complete, especially along the offensive line where coach Matt Luke is trying to expand his playing rotation.
Senior Patrick Junen had been pegged as a possible starter to replace A.J. Hawkins at right guard, the only vacancy up front, but Junen missed the first two weeks of practice recovering from a toe injury.
Third-year sophomore Justin Bell made a strong statement for the job in Junen’s absence, but Luke says the job isn’t locked up.
“As (Junen) gets healthier, maybe toward the end of next week, I’ll see. I don’t have it set in stone right now. There’s still eight more days of real practice for him,” Luke said.
Whoever loses the Bell-Junen battle will still figure prominently into a rotation that could reach eight players. That’s a big difference from a year ago when Junen was the only reserve to see extensive playing time.
changing of the guards
Luke says he feels comfortable playing four guards and three tackles right now. The third tackle figures to be freshman Laremy Tunsil.
Senior Jared Duke has had a strong camp. For several days he replaced Aaron Morris as the starter at right guard.
There’s still a battle on-going between redshirt freshman Robert Conyers – primarily a tackle – and sophomore Ben Still for back-up center behind starter Evan Swindall.
Junen is excited to see the depth coming along and says it could mean that Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze runs his tempo offense more often.
Lack of depth kept Freeze from running it as often as he would have liked last year.
“That’s going to make this offense go so much faster. We’re going to be able to go tempo the whole time. We’re excited about that,” Junen said.
Luke says he believes his players have been physical throughout camp and had their best collective effort in last Saturday’s scrimmage.
While Junen is a proponent of the new-found depth, he’s not hoping to be part of it, and on Tuesday it was Bell who missed the day with injury, though Luke says he’s not expected to be out for a significant time.
“I’ll definitely be pushing him and trying to get back in that spot,” Junen said. “That’s for sure.”