Rawlings and Liggins add versatility to Ole Miss offensive line
OXFORD – After losing four of its five starters from last season’s offensive line, Ole Miss must replace some talented big men up front. Fortunately, the 2016 Rebels can count on the versatility of sophomore Sean Rawlings and senior Jeremy Liggins, who have each shown the ability to play different positions.
Last season Ole Miss counted on Laremy Tunsil, Aaron Morris, Ben Still, Fahn Cooper and Justin Bell to handle the opposing defensive lines. Losing such experienced players creates a challenge for head coach Hugh Freeze and offensive line coach Matt Luke.
But the ability of linemen such as Rawlings and Liggins to play different positions on the line will definitely help Freeze and Luke as they work to find their starting unit.
Last season Rawlings made seven starts at right tackle, and by the end of the season he found himself playing some at center. Liggins has played tight end, quarterback and tackle.
Throughout spring practices this year, Rawlings played at center and tackle and made it clear he is ready to go any place the team needs him. “I’m going to be prepared for whatever happens,” said the Madison, Miss. native, whose left hand was in a cast at Saturday’s final practice of the spring. He was limited in spring workouts due to a fracture in the hand; however, he was able to participate Saturday.
Playing multiple positions doesn’t bother Rawlings or Liggins. “I’ve enjoyed the experience of trying to learn center this spring,” Rawlings explained. “I’ve been learning the schemes and everything. It’s completely different than tackle, so I’m just trying have it down pat before fall camp.
“You don’t have as much room to work being on the interior. At tackle, you’re on an island and have a lot more space to work. So at center it’s just a little different. The communication part is different. You have to make more calls and read the defense more at center,” Rawlings said.
Sean Rawlings, Ole Miss OL
Rawlings has been impressed with Liggins’ adjustment to tackle. In 2014, the 6-foot-3 Liggins played in every game with five starts at tight end. He also lined up at quarterback in short-yardage and goal-line situations. He totaled 48 yards and scored two touchdowns on 22 carries and also added a three-yard catch.
Then last spring, Liggins practiced at offensive tackle before switching back to tight end.
“Going from nose guard in junior college to quarterback and tight end here, I just feel like he has done a great job going to tackle,” Rawlings said about his teammate. “That’s a tough transition. I think he’s handled it great. He’s going to be ready to play tackle in the fall.”
Rawlings believes the offensive line will be a solid unit in 2016, but he also knows there is room for improvement.
At Saturday’s final practice of the spring, the Rebels’ first string offensive line consisted of: Alex Givens (left tackle), Javon Patterson (left guard), Rawlings (center), Jordan Sims (right guard) and Liggins (right tackle). Playing with the second unit were: Eli Johnson, Talbot Buys, Michael Howard, Tyler Putman, Jacob Feeley and Daronte Bouldin.
This spring, the Rebels have been without Conyers and junior Rod Taylor, who are both continuing their rehab from injuries.
Greg Little, a five-star recruit, will join the Rebels in the fall and is a strong candidate to take over the left tackle duties. Ole Miss also added three four-star signees in Bryce Matthews, Royce Newman and Chandler Tuitt, who will provide depth once the falls comes around.
(Feature image: Ole Miss offensive linemen (l-r) Sean Rawlings, Jeremy Liggins, Jordan Sims, Javon Patterson and Alex Givens during spring practice, 2016. Credit: Amanda Swain, The Rebel Walk)