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Ole Miss 2019 Position Preview: New faces on OL must gel quickly

With Alex Givens on the mend, who will lead this new Rebel line?

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Hog mollies. Road-pavers. People-movers. Big men.

Whatever you want to call them, the offensive line can make or break the flow of any offense, can make a good running back great, and it can be the foundation for an offensive revitalization or maybe this whole thing will be a massive dumpster fire.

I may be wrong, but I think we’re about to see something very different out of the Rebel offensive line compared to just about any other system in the last 20 years at Ole Miss. And I personally think it’s going to take more than one season to fully get it the way new offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez wants it.

That being said, the Rebels graduated one of its more talented offensive linemen of the last 10 years in Greg Little, and it lost some quality veterans in Javon Patterson and Sean Rawlings as well. There’s going to be a new system plus some rebuilding taking place, so temper your expectations with this group.

I’m just hoping for a nastier, edgier offensive line than we’ve seen in the past. It seems to be from practice reports that this line will be more mobile, agile, and hostile (REMEMBER THE TITANS REFERENCE) due to fewer drop back pass plays in the Hot Rod system. They’re seemingly going to be a very active and aggressive group with a new look from all we have heard and seen so far.

Here’s the latest starting rotation for the offensive line according to the latest release from the coaches:

RT - Alex Givens OR Bryce Mathews

RG - Ben Brown

C - Eli Johnson

LG - Royce Newman

LT - Michael Howard

Givens (6’6, 308) is coming back from a back procedure roughly a month ago, and coaches were hopeful he would be a “go” for the Memphis game. It’s likely he and Mathews (6’6, 297) will be rotating at the very least or he may see very limited snaps on Saturday.

Johnson, as the key cog of the offensive line, has only four games of experience, but he has been in the program for a three full years after redshirting in 2016 and hails from Lafayette County. There is unlikely to be many players on the team who get the importance of Ole Miss rivalries, tradition, etc. more than Johnson (6’1, 303), so he could prove to be a fan favorite if he proves his mettle early on.

Howard (6’4, 280) is a three year letter winner with 32 games of experience on the field in special teams and offensive line duty. He also had a redshirt year in 2015 making this his fifth year in Oxford for the Rebels. For a tackle, he could be seen as slightly undersized, but in an uptempo offensive mindset, I think this is less of an issue than say if the Rebels rolled out with an I-formation on the reg.

Standing at 6’5 and 320-pounds, Brown is a sophomore monster out of Vicksburg, Miss. who made not only every start as a freshman last year but also the All-SEC freshman team. He also played both ways in high school, which to me gives him a little extra edge for a lineman. His family lineage consists of several Ole Miss players including his dad and both of his grandfathers.

LARGE FAMILY BREEDING INJECT IT IN MY VEINS.

Newman (6’5, 305) is a former four star high school prospect out of Nashville who is a redshirt junior. He’s logged time in 21 games in the last two years, so he is now making the jump to a starting role. This is another offensive lineman who played both ways in high school, so he will be another guy I’d expect to see some hard hitting out of in the trenches.

Ultimately, the offensive line in 2019 is getting an injection of new talent with I dare say eight or nine freshmen who will one day be regularly taking snaps for the Rebels. This is a position that is in flux in a couple different ways - there are a lot of new faces that will be in the two and three deep rotation, and we’re going to see a change in the offensive scheme.

Whether those two things are too much for this group to overcome is yet to be seen, it could be two factors that cause them to gel quickly with some senior leaders who step up, but the concern is the lack of experience across the board will be a hurdle this season at times adjusting to a new system.

Back and better than ever for 2019

Eli Johnson

Michael Howard

Ben Brown

Alex Givens

Chandler Tuitt

Bryce Mathews

Royce Newman

New faces for 2019

Jalen Cunningham

Caleb Warren

Reece McIntyre

Nick Broeker

Carter Colquitt

Darius Thomas

Bryce Ramsey

Hamilton Hall

Jeremy James