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Ole Miss adds key Offensive Line Puzzle Piece with Commitment of UNC’s Diego Pounds.

The Rebs potentially snag their starting left tackle for 2024.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 23 North Carolina at Pitt Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Offensive tackle has long been pinned as perhaps THE position Ole Miss needed to address in the transfer portal this season (to my eyes, the interior of the offensive line was more of an issue, but I work in public relations, not football scouting, so…). Lane Kiffin and offensive line coach John Garrison added Southern Miss starting guard Gerquan Scott as the Rebels’ first transfer portal commitment of this offseason. Then, the staff’s focus seemed to shift to defense; aside from the VERY notable addition of star South Carolina wideout Juice Wells, all of the Rebels’ portal star power has been concentrated on defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs… until last week, when UNC starting left tackle Diego Pounds committed. Listed at 6’6 or 6’7, depending on where you look, and about 330 lbs, the redshirt sophomore and All-Name Team candidate is ranked as the #7 offensive tackle and #119 overall player in the transfer portal by On3. He was ranked as high as the #2 OT, but the rankings were shuffled around within the last few days.

Regardless: Pounds’ commitment is a big win for Ole Miss, which loses 2023 starting LT Victor Curne, but returns 2022 starting LT Jayden Williams. Williams started at LT in the Peach Bowl, to accommodate Curne shifting to RT to replace the injured Micah Pettus. Williams is by no means a bad option; he played pretty well in the Peach Bowl, and he lost his starting spot at the beginning of the season at least in part because of an offseason injury, opening the door for Curne. But Pounds is still very likely an upgrade, and gives the Rebels options.

With the addition of Pounds and Scott, along with three incoming freshmen offensive linemen, Ole Miss has by my count 16 offensive linemen on scholarship, eight of whom have significant experience. Additionally, reserve interior linemen Preston Cushman and Brycen Sanders might be ready to contribute soon. It appears as though two more portal targets, Tennessee OT Gerald Mincey and LSU OT Lance Heard, have both slipped through the Rebels’ fingers. Ole Miss might be done for the offseason (or at least until the second portal window) on the offensive line. If that is the case, Ole Miss still appears to have upgraded its offensive front, but perhaps not as aggressively as some would have liked. Still, continuity is a good thing among offensive line units, and John Garrison just finished his first year in Oxford; he’s a coaching vet who will hopefully develop some of his players given more time.