EDITOR’S NOTE: Beginning this week and counting down to the first week of Ole Miss football practice the week of August 15, HottyToddy.com’s own Collin Brister, former sports editor of the Daily Mississippian, will bring you exclusive “5 at 5” analyses of either A) the opponents Ole Miss will be facing this season or B) some background on Ole Miss’ players at each position. It’s being called “5 at 5” because each original piece will give you 5 key things to know, and we will post these stories at 5 p.m. every Monday-Friday.
Key Losses – Laremy Tunsil, Fahn Cooper, Aaron Morris, Justin Bell
Ole Miss lost four members of the 2015 offensive line including first round pick Laremy Tunsil and fellow NFL draft signee Fahn Cooper. The Rebels also lost seniors Justin Bell and Aaron Morris.
Tunsil was stellar at left tackle, and he won’t be easily replaced. He is one of the best players to ever have donned the red and blue. He was consistent in protecting Bo Wallace and Chad Kelly’s blind sides.
Cooper filled in at left tackle admirably during his absence and was a dominant force at right tackle when Tunsil returned.
Bell and Morris were role players and gave the Rebels depth along the offensive line. Morris recovered from two knee injuries during his time at Ole Miss and during the last part of the 2015 season was really helpful in springing Ole Miss’ running game.
Key additions – Greg Little, Bryce Matthews, Jeremy Liggins
Ole Miss was able to add the best tackle in the country in the 2016 signing class in Greg Little. Little will factor in immediately in the rotation and could very well be Tunsil’s heir apparent.
The Rebels also pulled in four-star Bryce Matthews out of Tennessee. Matthews will likely factor into the rotation during the season.
Jeremy Liggins, for now, has dropped number 15 and is instead wearing a lineman number. Liggins has a freakish athletic ability for a player his size, and with his feet and ability, could factor into a tackle position for the Rebels this season.
Enjoy this video highlight video on the 2015 Ole Miss Offensive Line courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics.
The Rebels will return a plethora of experience along the offensive line for the 2016 season.
Senior Robert Conyers could play either center or either tackle position for the Rebels. Conyers missed the second half of the 2016 season with a knee injury, but the senior is an extremely versatile player and his ability to play more than one position could be vital for the Rebels.
Sophomore Javon Patterson will open the 2016 season with a year of experience under his belt in the Southeastern Conference. The Petal native sprained his ankle during the 2015 season, setting him back a tad, but early in the season, Patterson showed the ability to be a solid offensive lineman for the Rebels.
Rod Taylor is one of the more athletic offensive linemen that the Rebels have. Taylor played tackle and guard last season with a torn labrum he suffered before the season. Taylor could provide depth at tackle, but he is likely too valuable at guard to not play. Taylor played well as a freshman, and played well at times last year but his injury hampered him in some ways.
Sophomore Jordan Sims has worked extremely hard in his two years at Ole Miss to shed weight and become a quality offensive lineman. Sims looked good the last portion of the 2015 season, and will likely see lots of time at guard during the 2016 season.
Sean Rawlings was the de-facto replacement for Laremy Tunsil during his seven-game suspension last season. Rawlings manned the right tackle position the night Ole Miss won in Tuscaloosa and did so admirably. Sure, Rawlings took his lumps, as all freshmen do in this league, but the sophomore garnered valuable experience that will prove to be beneficial during this season and during his career at Ole Miss.
Projected offensive line:
Left Tackle – Greg Little
Left Guard – Javon Patterson
Center – Robert Conyers
Right Guard – Rod Taylor
Right Tackle – Sean Rawlings
Offensive line outlook: This is where games are won, and for that matter lost. Ole Miss is returning experience at the offensive line positions but the Rebels will be breaking in freshmen Greg Little quickly. Ole Miss will need its veteran members in Conyers and Taylor to play well early in the season and give this group time to gel. The Rebels have pieces at the skill positions to be a lethal offensive line, but it all starts with the offensive line protecting Chad Kelly and giving the ball carriers lanes to run through.
Collin Brister is a staff writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.