OL Shuffling

A couple of unfortunate, it would seem, things have happened on the young Rebel offensive line in the past two weeks, but OL Coach Mike Markuson takes it all in stride. Read about it inside.

One would assume Offensive Line Coach Mike Markuson would be a bit worried based on what has happened to his group in the past two weeks.

Well, we all know what ass-uming will do.

Even though starting Right Guard Rishaw Johnson is no longer on the team, dismissed for breaking team rules, and his replacement, Josh Tatum, is out with an ankle injury, and Markuson is probably going to start redshirt freshman Mike Brown against Vanderbilt in the SEC opener Saturday morning, he seems to have few concerns at all.

Bradley Sowell

"We're going to make it work," Markuson said confidently. "We have a great situation from my perspective.

"We now have kids who want to be coached, they have the bodies, and they are strong kids who are eager to learn. From a coaches' view, it doesn't get any better than that."

Mike understands it's not that simple. He knows here will be pitfalls.

"We're going to have some rough spots. We're going to have some bad practice days. We're going to make some mistakes in the games, but these kids are busting their tails and we have something very good being established in my room," Mike noted. "As long as they are going hard, I can deal with the rest.

"It's better to live with guys who go hard, care and try than with guys who are a headaches and problems all the time. We just have to throw them in there and see what happens."

Markuson was specific with who is making strides.

"I am very encouraged about Logan Clair, Mike Brown, Emmanuel McCray, Jared Duke, Patrick Junen and Chris Gill. They are all making progress and, like I said, they want to be good and are busting their butts to get there," Mike stated.

Getting thrown in the fire is sometimes not an easy route, but sometimes it's the only route.

Bobby Massie

"The reps they are getting now in practice and the ones who get them in games will be helped tremendously," he continued. "Experience is the best teacher. But as I said, we are not afraid to put them in there. That's why we recruit them - to play - so now it's their time. Let's get after it and see what happens.

"We knew we were going to have some spots this year where guys who had not played would be thrust into the spotlight. There are some drawbacks to that, but I'm taking the stance that it's all good. Let's get it on."

It's not like the right guard slot is the only area that's not well-established. Center A.J. Hawkins has exactly two games under his belt.

"He's made progress. His snaps have improved. A.J. has made some mistakes, young mistakes, but he's coming on. He's gotten more conscientious about learning the position and applying it to practice and games. Overall, I'm pleased with what he has been doing," Markuson assessed.

The Rebels have their hands full, according to Mike, with the Vandy defense.

"They are very, very aggressive. They play extremely hard. They have a get-after-it mentality," he said. "We have to play physical, hard and with our pads down because they are stout. I expect a great matchup.

"Their two inside guys are experienced and active. Their DEs have played and two of their linebackers are salty. Their front seven is a typical SEC front. They have played against the best and they know what it takes. I like the way they come off the ball, chase the ball, play with good pad level and try to knock you back."

Markuson's bunch will be protecting QB Jeremiah Masoli in his second start.

"I look for Jeremiah to take another leap forward this week. He's been in these kinds of games before," Mike stated. "He plays the game so effortlessly. There's no strain in his game. It's just natural. He's one of those guys.

"We need to do a great job protecting him and giving him time to operate, because he can deal. He's so bright. We have a lot of things in our offense he's familiar with and the new stuff we have given him he has absorbed like a sponge."


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