As if the battered Ole Miss offensive line wasn't facing enough of a challenge this weekend in Gainesville, it'll likely be missing starting right guard Justin Bell, who hasn't played since going down two weeks ago in Tuscaloosa. Hugh Freeze said after practice on Wednesday that the Rebels "don't expect to have [Bell]" against the Gators on Saturday, according to Ben Garrett of the Ole Miss Spirit.
Freeze said on Monday that Bell would "try and go," but the big fella hasn't been able to practice so far this week.
That's a major concern for a Rebel O-line that's looked pretty bad without him. In the game and a half since Bell went down early in the third quarter in Tuscaloosa, Ole Miss has averaged just 3.1 yards per rush. Things have been particularly dire near the end zone, where a complete lack of push from the interior line has continually stalled the Rebel offense: of the 17 plays they ran from within the five-yard line against Bama and Vandy, they scored touchdowns on just four of them.
Not that Bell would have made a huge difference, per se -- those terrible rushing stats have a lot more to do with the uptick in competition level than they do with Bell's absence. But it sure doesn't help to be missing a veteran starter against a Florida defense that's allowing just 3.1 yards per carry (third in the SEC) and is top 30 in the country in defensive rushing success rate.
The good news is that Freeze said starting center Robert Conyers, who's been dealing with a sprained knee, "is going to gut it out" on Saturday.
I'd expect to see the same shuffle the Rebs used against Vandy last Saturday with Bell on the sideline: Javon Patterson sliding to right guard and Aaron Morris taking over at left guard. There's also Rod Taylor, who Freeze said will "try to go," according to Davis Potter of The Oxford Eagle. Freeze said on Monday that he's hoping Taylor, who's still dealing with a torn labrum in his shoulder, could play around 20 snaps against the Gators.
"[Rod's] looked better," Freeze said on Wednesday. "He's going to give it a shot, for sure. There's some things he's good at, and there's others he's still coming along with. But he's definitely better than he's been."
Redshirt freshman Jordan Sims, who saw a good bit of playing time in the second half against Bama, should also factor into the mix at guard.
And oh yea, we still haven't gotten any word on Laremy Tunsil's status for Saturday.