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Ole Miss signing class 2016: The Rebels get a lot better on the offensive line

The Rebels lacked depth up front, so Hugh Freeze went out and signed five quality lineman to compliment his outstanding skill-position talent.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Much has been made of Ole Miss' huge offensive haul on Signing Day, and for good reason: Hugh Freeze and company signed one of the best skill position classes in the country. As the saying goes, however, games are won and lost up front on the offensive line, which has been perceived as a position of weakness the Rebels in recent years. Throw in the departures of five regular 2015 contributors (Laremy Tunsil, Aaron Morris, Fahn Cooper, Ben Still, and Justin Bell) and Freeze desperately needed reinforcements up front.

Fortunately, those skill position gems are accompanied by a deep class of O-lineman. The Ole Miss coaching staff inked five lineman, including five-star Greg Little, four-star Bryce Mathews three others that are ranked 33rd or better at their position.

Let's take a look at each of them.

5-star Greg Little

No. 1 offensive tackle, No. 4 overall
6'5, 318 pounds

Hoo-boy did Ole Miss need this signature. Little comes by way of Allen High School in Texas (which probably has the most impressive high school football stadium in the country) and is expected to make an immediate impact on the offensive line, likely by replacing Laremy Tunsil at left tackle.

Simply put, there is a reason Little is ranked as the top offensive lineman in the country. He has great size and technique which will require less development than usual for offensive lineman entering their first year. Little draws comparisons to Tunsil, which may be a little unfair considering how special of a player Tunsil was, but there are similarities in their preparedness to play at the SEC level. He's ready now and, considering the Rebels current depth at the position, this is a massive get for Ole Miss.

4-star Bryce Mathews

No. 14 offensive tackle, No. 219 overall
6'6, 275 pounds

Freeze went into Brentwood, Tenn. and stole Mathews right out of Butch Jones' backyard. Mathews, a composite 4-star product, comes from great stock as his father, Jason Mathews, played offensive line for Texas A&M and then went on to play in 142 games for two different NFL franchises.

Mathews' offer sheet was loaded with programs like Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, Michigan. He is physically imposing and dominant on tape. Part of that, though, could be inflated due do his competition level and it may take him longer to adjust to the speed and physicality of the SEC than Greg Little. However, Mathews adds quality depth to a unit that desperately needs it and don't be surprised if he finds himself a role as early as his freshman year.

3-star Royce Newman

No. 33 offensive tackle, No. 346 overall
6'7, 255 pounds

The Nashville (Illinois, not Tennessee) product was a long-time Missouri commit before flipping to the Rebels just two weeks before Signing Day. In addition to Mizzou, Newman carried offers from the aforementioned NC State, Illinois, Nebraska and others.

You're probably going to get a kick out of his highlight tape. It starts with him lining up at tight end and throwing around much smaller would-be tacklers, then he lines up out wide to catch bubble screens and go-routes, and ends with him living in the opponents backfield while playing defensive end. Though he didn't play against the best competition in the world, its clear Ole Miss sees the potential in Newman considering how athletic he is for his size. He has to add some weight when he gets to Oxford, but this could be significant contributor if can do so while maintaining his athleticism.

3-stat Chandler Tuitt

No. 23 offensive guard, No. 482 overall
6'3, 292 pounds

Ole Miss continued to have success in the Peach State, especially at Sandy Creek High. Tuitt joins his former high school teammate Eric Swinney in Oxford.

Tuitt already has the size of an SEC guard, weighing in at 292 pounds at his last official visit to Ole Miss just a couple weeks ago. At his size and ability level he can clearly overpower his competition at the high school level. What should be encouraging for Ole Miss fans, though, is the low center of gravity and pad level he displays on tape. It will likely be difficult for Tuitt to break into the regular rotation at guard in 2016, but with time to develop in Paul Jackson's strength and conditioning program, he could have a very bright future at Ole Miss.

3-star Eli Johnson

No. 4 center, No. 485 overall 
6'3, 295 pounds

Johnson didn't travel far to begin his college career. The early-enrollee from Lafayette High School in Oxford sported offers from Duke, Illinois, Nebraska, and Mississippi State, among others.

Ole Miss' struggled at the center position last year after Robert Conyers went down with a mid-season injury. Conyers is back for his senior year, but Johnson is a candidate to take over in 2017. He would likely benefit from a redshirt year, though Johnson did get ahead of the curve by enrolling a semester early, and could find himself giving snaps to Chad Kelly this season. The majority of his tape shows him putting defenders on their backs in violent fashion, showing good power to go with his great technique.