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Greg Little could change Ole Miss from a rebuilding project to a contender in 2016

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A lack of options at left tackle probably meant a step back for the Rebel offense next season, but the immediate impact of the country's top OT prospect changes that.

Student Sports

Assuming Chad Kelly sticks around (which is not a given right now), the biggest question mark on next year's Ole Miss team is at offensive tackle. Everyone's talking about Laremy Tunsil leaving early to make piles of money in the League, but the Rebs are also losing right tackle Fahn Cooper, a two-year starter who was named the best O-lineman in the state of Mississippi this season.

Before the commitment of Greg Little, the nation's top-ranked tackle, Hugh Freeze was out of luck in terms of replacements at the bookends. The only players on the roster with starting experience at the position will be Sean Rawlings, a current freshman, and Robert Conyers, who was moved to center this season. It's likely the Rebs would have headed into 2016 with Rawlings making his first ever start on the left side and either Conyers or incoming true freshman Bryce Mathews starting on the right. Hell, Jeremy Liggins might have cracked the two-deep.

Ole Miss' explosive offense has been built around Kelly and the vertical passing game (the Rebs are 10th nationally in passing plays of 20 or more yards), but an inability to slow edge rushers would limit Chad's ability to push the ball downfield. Any uncertainty at the left tackle spot could cripple Ole Miss' entire offense.

Little changes everything.

He's the unanimous No. 1 OT tackle across the four major crootin sites and the second best player in the country, according to 247 and ESPN. For an idea of just how good scouts think this dude is, check out his overall rankings compared to Laremy Tunsil's when he committed in 2013.

Overall rankings, regardless of position
Rivals 247 Scout ESPN
Greg Little 4 2 3 2
Laremy Tunsil 14 4 7 5

I'm not saying the guy's better than Tunsil, but he is considered a transcendent talent who, like Tunsil, could be an SEC starter from Day 1. If Little can be at least serviceable, the Rebels' O-line becomes significantly more stable. Now Little is holding down the left tackle spot and Rawlings gets to stay on the right, where he performed admirably as a freshman during Tunsil's seven-game suspension.

And the interior could be pretty damn good. Conyers could stay at center and the guards would be a pair of former blue-chips: Rod Taylor and Javon Patterson. Taylor will finally be healthy and Patterson will hopefully take a big step after a somewhat disappointing freshman year -- if not, current freshman Jordan Sims, who took over at right guard in late October, has proven himself capable.

The skill positions should be loaded in 2016.

The potency of next year's offense still depends on Kelly's decision, but it's possible that Little's commitment has an affect on that. If I'm Swag, I'm considerably more likely to come back for my senior year if I'll be protected enough to put up big numbers.

Because with a reliable front, this offense will put up big numbers again in 2016. Damore'ea Stringfellow, Quincy Adeboyejo and Markell Pack will all be back. Evan Engram might be back, and should be significantly more impactful with Laquon Treadwell no longer eating up receptions. Four-star freshmen DaMarkus Lodge and Van Jefferson round out what should again be one of the SEC's best receiving corps.

Jaylen Walton graduates, but with a sturdier O-line interior, big backs Akeem Judd (who's really come on down the stretch this season) and Jordan Wilkins should be more effective. Don't forget about former four-star Eric Swinney, who redshirted after suffering a foot fracture back in July.

Little could be the linchpin to it all.

Let's go ahead and fast forward a couple years.

Shea Patterson, the top-ranked QB croot in the country, will be starting behind center by 2017 (it might be earlier if Swag ends up bouncing). He could have Little and Mathews as bookend tackles, Lodge and Jefferson as bookend wideouts and Swinney and incoming four-star Justin Connor in the backfield. That could be a scary good offense.

Of course, Freeze still has another month and a half before he can get Little in the boat. Nick Saban didn't call it quits just because Little committed, and you don't have to look back very far for the last example of an elite offensive tackle breaking off Freeze's line just before Signing Day. Nothing is a guarantee at this point, but there's still good reason to get excited about the future of an Ole Miss offense with Greg Little protecting the blind side.