Moving Up

With the troubles on the Ole Miss offensive line, it's well-documented the coaching staff is looking for other options. Right now, that includes big-bodied freshmen Patrick Junen and Jared Duke. Read about it inside.

One guard has been dismissed from the team.

Another, his replacement, is out with injury.

The ones playing are doing so-so jobs.

All that equals opportunity.

Opportunity is knocking for 6-8, 306-pound freshman Patrick Junen and 6-6, 335-pound freshman Jared Duke.

And did we mention they are true freshmen?

"We need help," said Offensive Line Coach Mike Markuson. "They are big bodies who can move. They have mass. They are strong kids and smart guys. When they lean on you, the D-linemen know it."

Junen, as of yesterday, is splitting reps with junior Alex "Tank" Washington at left guard. Duke is working some at right guard behind penciled in starter Logan Clair, a converted right tackle, and behind starting Right Tackle Bobby Massie.

"They have to keep working, keep learning. The more we throw them in there, the more they'll get it," continued Markuson.

All sorts of questions swirl around true freshman offensive linemen. Markuson has already answered a couple of them - strength and smarts - but what of the most important ingredient? Are they aggressive enough?

Patrick Junen

"They are coming. Patrick is pretty aggressive already and Jared is getting better. (Jerrell) Powe told me when Duke gets on him he's hard to move or get around. He also said Junen fires off the ball well and tries to attack," Mike stated. "Patrick is a little quicker. He runs really well."

Both have already played this year on the field goal and PAT units, so Mike is not fretting over the redshirt question.

"If you don't have depth, you don't have depth. If you need them, you have to use them. We have to play for today and not tomorrow at this point. Ideally, I would have liked to have put a redshirt on them," he explained. "They are able bodied guys and we need that infusion."

Markuson is anxious about Junen "getting it."

"I think he's going to be an unbelievable player in time. When he gets it all together, which is what we are trying to do right now, I think his upside is tremendous," said Mike.

Junen walked on in the summer and Markuson was surprised with what he saw. During the wooing process to get him to Ole Miss, Mike liked the frame but knew he needed work in the weight room.

"He was a big kid when we were recruiting him, but you could tell his body wasn't ready yet," said Mike. "When he showed up, we thought, wow, what happened to this kid? He worked really hard with a personal trainer and got leaner and stronger."

Duke was too heavy when he reported to camp, but has trimmed down and made himself viable.

"I think he was in the 360s when he got here and is now in the 330s. He's in better shape and all that has helped Jared become someone in the picture," Mike noted.

So now it's just a matter of putting them in games and seeing what happens.

"They have to experience getting knocked around, knocked down, spit on, kicked and cussed. They all have to go through that rite of passage. We try to get them ready in practice, but game situations are a lot different," Markuson stated. "You just have to put them in there, let them take their lumps and go from there.

"They are both sharp, conscientious kids. They will study it, work hard and do their best. That's all we can ask as coaches."

While Markuson would rather not be in this position at this point, it is what it is and he says he'll make the most of it.

"It's my job and nobody wants to hear any excuses. We won't offer any. When you treat them like men and talk to them straight, they understand they have to do all they can do to get it done," he added. "We just have to keep showing them tape. This is not how you do it, this is. Repeat the process over and over.

"I enjoy the process. Winning is the most important thing, but the second most important and rewarding thing is developing players, no question."

Junen is says he's been humbled, but is excited.

"I'm working hard and doing my best to help the team. We are suffering a bit inside and the coaches have turned to me to help," said Patrick. "I'm anxious, but that is natural. I have a great coach who is getting me ready and I'm going to do all I can do."

Junen chose Ole Miss, after not being heavily recruited, for several reasons.

"I wanted to play in the SEC at a school with my major (engineering). Then I got to know these coaches - Coach Mark, Coach (Houston) Nutt - and I knew this is where I wanted to be," he explained.

To be thrust into this type of situation so quickly was surprising to Patrick, but he wants to make the most of the situation.

"The coaches expect my best and that's what they'll get. This is big time football and I have to get it done when my number is called," he continued. "I'm leaving the rest in God's hands. He has his hands on my path."

Jared Duke

Duke had a concussion a couple of weeks ago, but is now fully recovered.

"I got set back by that, but the last few days of getting reps has helped a lot," Jared stated.

For him, the mental part of playing on the OL has been the toughest part of the process.

"Right now, I'm having to switch back and forth with two positions, but we all need to know all positions on the OL anyway so that has been good for me," he stated.

Duke expected a redshirt this year, but unforeseen circumstances have changed that situation.

"I didn't see myself in this position, to be honest, but after I lost about 30 pounds this summer and got in better shape, I guess I put myself in a better situation," he allowed.

As was stated, Junen and Duke have played on the field goal/PAT unit already, but now it appears it's about to get "real."

They've moved up, ready or not.

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