Ole Miss held their first practice of fall camp on August 3rd which means we are one step closer to the beginning of the season. As we continue with the position by position breakdown of the 2017 Rebel football team, we now come to the Ole Miss offensive line. For the first time in a very long time, the offensive line has a chance to be a strength for Ole Miss. The Rebels have a collection of talent and experience at this position group that they have not had since perhaps the first two years of the Houston Nutt era when players such as Michael Oher, John Jerry, Bobbie Massie, and Bradley Sowell were suiting up.
Ole Miss’s struggles with the run game have been apparent the past few seasons. Ole Miss ranked 103rd in the FBS in rushing yards per game in 2016. The offensive line group in Oxford has a chance to reverse those fortunes this year. Matt Luke was able to make an incredible hire in Jack Bicknell as offensive line coach. Bicknell has D1 head coaching experience (Louisiana Tech) and has spent the past two seasons as an offensive line coach for the Miami Dolphins.
While the depth chart Ole Miss has released surprised people at some spots, the offensive line was mainly what everyone expected. This consistency could be something for the Rebels to lean on during this season.
Leading The Pack
At center you have junior, Sean Rawlings. After redshirting in 2014, Rawlings has played in 21 games over the past two seasons with 15 starts. Although, most of his experience has been at right tackle, he has had plenty of experience at center and was moved there permanently in the spring. Rawlings has the size (6-5 294) and the experience to be a very reliable and effective player.
Jordan Sims and Javon Patterson will start at the two guard spots. Sims was a member of the 2014 recruiting class and redshirted his freshman season. He has since compiled 15 starts over the past two seasons and has a firm grip on the right guard spot. Patterson was a big-time high school recruit who committed to Ole Miss over Alabama and LSU among others. He earned playing time early his freshman season and hasn’t looked back. Through 2015 and 2016, Patterson has had 18 starts, the most of any offensive lineman on the team. He has All-SEC potential if he can stay healthy.
At left tackle, former five star recruit, Greg Little gets the nod. Little almost certainly has the highest ceiling of any offensive lineman on the roster. It took the first few weeks of the season for him to get acclimated to life in the SEC, but once he did he showed flashes of his first round pick potential. Expect Little to be in contention for first team All-SEC and All-American honors at the conclusion of the season. At right tackle, Alex Givens and Rod Taylor are both listed as potential starters. Taylor started seven games at left tackle last season while Givens started five at the right tackle spot. Both are very talented and experienced and contribute to the excellent depth the Rebels have at the tackle position.
The most experienced back up Ole Miss has is senior, Daronte Bouldin who is listed at right guard. While Bouldin has only four starts, he has played in 33 games over his career. Outside of Bouldin, Ole Miss will depend on members of its 2016 recruiting class, a consensus top 10 class, to bolster its offensive line. Royce Newman (LT), Jack DeFoor (LG), and Eli Johnson (C) all redshirted last season to develop physically and grow within the offense. They should gain valuable experience over the first two weeks of the season as Ole Miss takes on South Alabama and UT Martin.
Ole Miss signed three offensive linemen in this year’s class. The highest rated of these was four star Tony Gray. Because Ole Miss does not have much experience behind their starters, Gray, who will play tackle, could possibly see the field if he can settle in quickly. The two other signees were three star guard, Sincere David and three star tackle, Ben Brown. David and Brown will most likely redshirt this season.
Ole Miss has earned the reputation of a team that struggles to blow people off the line of scrimmage offensively. The Rebels have as good a chance as they ever have to change that this season. The starting five are all experienced and talented players who were recruited heavily. Interim head coach, Matt Luke, served as the offensive line coach for the Rebels from 2012 to 2016. Expect Luke to incorporate a more run-heavy philosophy in order to put his mark on the program.