And you thought Ole Miss’ offensive line was banged up before Auburn. With Sean Rawlings and Robert Conyers added to the questionable list, the Rebels could be down as many as four starters this Saturday against Georgia Southern.
Hugh Freeze’s Monday afternoon press conference read like a casualty report.
- Rawlings, who typically starts at right tackle but slid inside to center against Auburn, is wearing a walking boot.
- Conyers, the usual starting center, is dealing with a knee injury. He tried to replace Rawlings on Saturday but didn’t fare well.
- Starting left tackle Rod Taylor missed the Auburn game with a high ankle sprain and remains questionable, though he’s at least out of his walking boot. Freeze said he “sure hopes [Taylor] can give it a go because we are going to need some bodies in the offensive line come Saturday.”
- Freeze didn’t provide an update on starting right guard Jordan Sims, who played sparingly against Auburn because of an ankle injury. Freeze did say that Daronte Bouldin, who replaced Sims in the starting lineup last week, has a hip pointer and “wasn’t doing really well [on Sunday].”
With just four games left in the season, Freeze is hoping to avoid pulling redshirts on guys like Bryce Mathews and Chandler Tuitt. Instead, he’ll call on walk-ons Jacob Feeley and Talbot Buys. Jeremy Liggins and Tyler Putman should also be available.
On a positive note, Freeze said he was impressed with freshmen Greg Little and Alex Givens, who made their first career starts at left and right tackle, respectively.
“We are playing freshmen and sophomores primarily there, so the future is bright with those guys and Alex’s first start and Greg Little’s first start against a very fine defensive line and I thought they held their own and did really well. I am real proud and think they are going to be really good players.”
Givens got called for several penalties, but the freshmen duo held their own against one of the better pass-rushing units in the country.
The linebacker shuffle continues...
With DeMarquis Gates banged up on Saturday, Ole Miss started former walk-on Tyler Polk and true freshman Willie Hibbler (who was playing tight end in high school this time last year). It went so poorly that Auburn running back Kamryn Pittway (who ran for 236 yards) joked that he didn’t think anyone even wanted to tackle him. From Pro Football Focus:
From 13 snaps against the run Hibbler didn’t make any tackles resulting in a defensive stop and, while Polk fared better and made a tackle resulting in a defensive stop on 12.0 percent of his run defense snaps, he also missed a tackle and was often handled too easily by blockers at the second level.
Rommel Mageo, who played just five snaps against Auburn, will start in the middle against Georgia Southern. With Gates scheduled for an MRI on his injured knee, the stinger spot remains a question mark.
“[Gates] definitely did not play well, was not mobile, did not move around very well and was not physical,” Freeze said. “It will be hard to say today sitting here that with his knee issue that he would be the guy that we would go to right now.”
Freeze wasn’t all that pleased with the student section.
The student support on Saturday was, uh, not so great.
It's a 1 point game in the 4th quarter and Ole Miss's student section just keeps getting emptier and emptier. pic.twitter.com/cWvQ2muFIR— Bethanee Smith (@bethaneesmith) October 30, 2016
Ole Miss student section has started to clear out in the 4th quarter. Not sure why they're leaving, but they're missing one heck of a game.— ESPN 97.7 The Zone (@977ESPN) October 30, 2016
Ole Miss is locked in a one-point game, fourth quarter, in an SEC game and a lot of students have left. But yeah, don't lose that party.— Ben Garrett (@SpiritBen) October 30, 2016
Freeze played nice when asked about the early exodus, but you can tell he’s a bit frustrated.
Many of our students are loyal, great supporters and help make our home atmosphere a difficult one to play in. Does it bother me that some seats are empty at an SEC western division game with a one-point halftime game when you come out? It does. I would hope that they would stay for that and many do. I wish the ones that choose to leave will certainly reconsider it because we need their support. We need that place to be difficult and they’re probably the ones that can make it the most difficult.
The team is trying to coax students back into attentiveness by opening practice to them on Tuesday.
ATTENTION OLE MISS STUDENTS: Here's your chance to watch the Rebels practice! All students can enter through the gate on Hill Drive. pic.twitter.com/RPgyHpIi1m— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) October 30, 2016
Or maybe Freeze is just low-key searching for O-linemen and linebackers.