The Bulls

The expectations for the Rebel offensive line are high, both with fans and Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt. Read his offseason thoughts inside.

It's reasonable to project the Ole Miss offensive line should be one of the strong points of the 2011 Rebel football team.

Size? Check.

Experience? Check.

Numbers? Check.

Desire? We'll let Rebel Coach Houston Nutt handle that one based on the reports he's gotten or things he has seen during the recent offseason program.

But first, the setup.

Sowell, Massie lead a deep and experienced offensive line
Chuck Rounsaville
"I asked Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie, our two most experienced guys, to take over during the offseason with that group," Nutt began. "We asked them to step up to another level and to take the rest with them as the leaders of that unit.

"They both did what we asked them to do."

He started with Massie.

"I look for Bobby to really step up this spring. He's now at 325 pounds, he's quicker, he's more flexible and he's stronger," said Nutt. "I have also been told by (Strength & Conditioning) Coach (Don) Decker that Bobby has become more of a leader.

"Bradley is at 315 pounds and stronger than he has ever been. He's had a great offseason and we expect that to carry over to spring. This will be his third year starting at left tackle and he's improved each step of the way. He's also taking on a leadership role, which is always good to see, as a senior. I think he'll play with more confidence than ever. He's just has to keep coming and be a leader for us. He's got to carry over his leadership and good play into spring training. He's doing great."

Sowell and Massie are somewhat givens. With their experience and personalities, what the Rebel mentors got in the offseason was what was expected, but an OL has five spots and there needs to be as close to a two-deep who can play as possible.

"The biggest offseason surprise has been Center A.J. Hawkins to this point. A.J. has bought in," emphasized Nutt. "He's around 325 now - I want him to lose a little bit in fact - and he's moving well. He did not miss a beat in our different workout stations and he did not spit out the bit during the rigors of the offseason. I'm very happy with what he did to improve in the offseason. That's encouraging.

"One thing that probably motivated A.J. was that Evan Swindall has had an unbelievable offseason. He's over 300 now and is benching almost 400. For a guy that young, that's very good. He's coming on strong. Also, Chase Hughes, who redshirted last year, made the Iron Rebel poster. So there are guys breathing down A.J.'s neck."

The depth angle then crept into Nutt's evaluation.

"We're starting to stack them in there and develop some real competition," he continued. "You look at Patrick Junen, Jared Duke, Josh Tatum and Emmanuel McCray and they all had good offseasons. They will be right in there competing for jobs this spring. If not, I will be surprised.

Nutt said Massie is now at 325 pounds
Chuck Rounsaville
"Alex Washington is extremely strong. He's still got to lose some weight, but at the end of last year, he was playing well. Chris Gill is now over 300 pounds and has a chance to make an impact."

The wild cards, using that term very loosely, are Matt Hall, who sat out last year after transferring from Arkansas, and Logan Clair, a rising senior who got injured after gaining a starting spot last year.

"Logan should be ready to go in spring and we are anxious to get him back on the field. He was strong before his injury, he's stronger now," said Nutt. "Matt is huge. The strength staff tell me he is really pushing some weight and has worked hard on his movement and flexibility. He's 6-9, 340 pounds and looks 310. He benches over 400. He's lean and ready to compete. I don't know where he will land position-wise, but he's going to be in the picture pushing for a job."

Nutt has put down a challenge to the offensive line.

"Hey, you were OK last year. Last year is over. Now, be the guys. Be the real thing. Be the group that leads the way," noted Nutt. "I like offensive linemen who are the backbone of the team and we've got some smart kids who get that and want to be that.

"They want to raise their play to the next level. They want to be the backbone. They are a good group and will only get stronger when our signees get here and we stack them up a little deeper."

Overall, Nutt was very pleased with the offseason the offensive line had, but now he's wanting that to surface in spring training.

"We're showing all the signs of being pretty good up front. I want to see those signs to keep surfacing in spring training," he closed. "I'm excited about them. We are on the right track now with offensive linemen."

Coming Up: Tight ends and wide receivers.

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