Ole Miss enters New Mexico State game with depleted O-line
Ole Miss could be without as many as four of its five starting offensive linemen in the Rebels’ Homecoming matchup with the New Mexico State Aggies Saturday.
Right guard Justin Bell, center Robert Conyers, and left guard Javon Patterson will miss the game due to injury. And until the NCAA and Ole Miss announce otherwise, left tackle Laremy Tunsil will not be in the lineup either. Right tackle Sean Rawlings is banged up, but he will try and give it a go against the Aggies. Fahn Cooper, who usually plays right tackle, has been filling in at left tackle in Tunsil’s absence.
Following the Rebels’ 38-10 loss to the Gators last weekend, the state of the Ole Miss O-line is on everyone’s mind. “I’m concerned for everything, that being one of them,” Freeze said.
Red zone woes
Ole Miss will look to solve its recent red zone woes Saturday. On the Rebels’ fourth drive early in the second quarter in the game against Florida, starting quarterback Chad Kelly connected with receivers Laquon Treadwell, Quincy Adeboyejo, and Damore’ea Stringfellow to get Ole Miss to Florida’s 12-yard line. This was the Rebels’ first of three trips to the red zone, but they were unable to overpower the Gators’ front seven for a touchdown.
“We got to figure out a way to get the ball in the end zone whether it’s to do the naked or to run it wide,” Ole Miss’ Co-Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line coach Matt Luke said about the offense, which went 5 for 14 on third down conversions. “We have to get in jumbo set or power it in there, but when you get down there and get it close, you got to score touchdowns.”
Kelly’s effort was all there, going 4 of 6 for 54 yards and adding a nine-yard rush onto the 9-play, 80-yard drive, but the 29-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right and the Rebels came up empty-handed. Ole Miss wouldn’t have any success in the red zone until the second half when Gary Wunderlich connected on a 22-yard field goal midway through the third quarter to cut the team’s deficit to 25-3. Then Kelly found wide out Markell Pack late in the fourth quarter for the only passing touchdown of the game.
Players stepping in on the O-line
Freeze knows he must get his young linemen ready to play. “We were playing some young kids up there against a really good defensive front,” Freeze said of the Florida matchup. “Everybody has some young kids and everybody has some injuries and nobody really wants to hear that. We just have to get the ones we have prepared to play, and play better. Chad Kelly was under a lot of pressure. But, credit to them and we have to get our guys better prepared.”
Freeze is prepared to do whatever it takes to help the Rebels to have success in the remainder of their SEC schedule. “We have to coach better. We have to get better,” he said. “We didn’t take care of the football. Our plan was, I think it was a solid plan, but we didn’t execute it, which means we didn’t do a good enough job preparing our kids to play in this environment,” he said following the loss to Florida.
Projected O-line for New Mexico State game
Most of those watching practices this week project the Rebels’ starting offensive line to include: Fahn Cooper (LT), Aaron Morris (LG), Ben Still (C), Rod Taylor (RG), Sean Rawlings (RT).
The Rebels will look to get back on track when they play New Mexico State at 11:00 am Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway.
Feature image credit: Bentley Breland, The Rebel Walk