Rebels have questions at center

K1F3_Ole_Miss_logo.jpegBy Parrish Alford

Daily Journal

OXFORD – Experience and depth can be found at many positions for Ole Miss, but offensive line is not one of them.

The Rebels are looking for new starters at center and right tackle and trying to build depth as well.

Junior college transfer Fahn Cooper appears to be pulling ahead at right tackle, but center, where Ole Miss is trying to replace three-year starter Evan Swindall, is a little murkier.

Junior Ben Still emerged from spring as the No. 1, but the competition between he and third-year sophomore Robert Conyers continues.

“I’m being pushed,” Still said after Friday’s workout. “We’re swapping with the ones every other day.”

Friday’s session was closed to media. Today’s practice begins at 9:45 a.m. at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and is open to the media and fans.

If rain forces the team indoors the practice will be closed to fans.

Still (6-3, 298) appeared in only five games last year, just two of those in SEC play.

While he’s light in experience he learned a lot from watching Swindall.

“He taught me a lot, noticing where linebackers and safeties are, calling out blitzes, making sure people get to the right gaps, and that kind of stuff,” Still said.

Ole Miss almost never takes a snap with the quarterback’s hands under center. So far, there have been few issues with the shotgun snaps. Accuracy and velocity have been solid, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said, with both Still and Conyers.

Battling defense

The bigger has been blocking the Rebels’ defensive line.

With junior nose tackle Issac Gross out, Still has most often seen the Rebels’ bigger nose, Woodrow Hamilton, as well as sophomore tackle Robert Nkemdiche.

“I’m pleased with Ben and with Robert. When you’re blocking some of the guys we’re blocking, Robert’s a tough block,” Freeze said. “When you’re asking a center to do that in a one-on-one back block situation sometimes we can look really bad doing that, but I hope (Robert) makes a lot of people look that way. Mentally they pick things up very well.”

Conyers (6-5, 295) appeared in five games last year. He worked mostly at center in the spring but was moved back to tackle after sophomore Austin Golson, who had won the job, announced he would transfer.

Conyers was listed No. 1 at right tackle at the end of spring.

While Cooper (6-5, 312) takes the first-team snaps, Conyers, freshman Rod Taylor and juco transfer walk-on Craig Frigo are working behind him.

“Robert’s looked good there too,” Freeze said. “We’re kind of doing that by committee, but it looks like Fahn is emerging.”

parrish.alford@journalinc.com