Competition Continues

A little over halfway through spring training, Ole Miss Offensive Line Coach Mike Markuson said the pecking order in his group is still up for grabs. Read his comments inside.

Mike Markuson cut to the chase when asked about the progress of his offensive line a little over halfway through spring training.

He began his evaluation, rightfully so, with senior Left Tackle Bradley Sowell, who is heading into his third year as a starter and is the OL leader.

"Bradley Sowell is playing with great effort, he's finishing blocks, he's being physical. In the whole bunch, he's the one who has stood out the most," said Markuson. "He's doing a lot of good things in practice. You can tell he's a senior, in his fifth year and that it means something to him. I am really impressed with him."

At right tackle, Bobby Massie, who has a year and a half of starting under his belt, also drew Markuson's praise.

"Massie is doing a lot of good things. He's improved his flexibility and has improved his body. He has to continue to get better in pass pro, but we can say that for the whole group," Mike continued. "We put them in some tough situations with a blitz period today (Thursday) and we struggled a bit with it.

Mike Markuson
Chuck Rounsaville
"In the run game, we have been pretty good this spring, but we have to shore up some protection issues, especially when the defense brings extra people.Everyone is working hard though and we are working a lot of different combinations of players."

Markuson is looking at several guard candidates, including trying some guys who have been at tackle on the inside.

"We are rotating about five guys in and out to try to find the right guys. The guard slots are not solid yet," he said. "Tank (Alex Washington) is doing a good job because he's been around a long time and is getting his hat on the right guy.

"We've moved Matt Hall inside exclusively and that is going to allow him to compete for a position. He's going to get more and more in there. At 6-9 playing inside, it's different for him, but he bends well and he's physical."

The separation at guard at the moment is based on the experience of Washington and Logan Clair, who have maintained the top spots thus far in spring training.

"They probably have an edge right now due to experience, but Emmanuel McCray, who we have moved inside, is doing a lot of good things. Jared Duke has not had the spring we anticipated thus far, but he's working on it," said Mike. "We have rotated Patrick Junen between guard and tackle - we want him to learn left tackle as well as guard."

Head Coach Houston Nutt mentioned earlier in the week that massive RT Terrell Brown, all 6-11, 370 pounds of him, had made a surge. Mike concurs.

"He's not quite where we can put him out there against edge pressure all day yet, but I'd feel OK putting him out there on goalline and short yardage now," Mike assessed. "He's working hard, is doing some good things and he's trying to be more consistent. He's a great kid with a great attitude. It's all about getting more fundamentally sound and gaining more lower body strength for Terrell."

A.J. Hawkins seems to have the inside track on the center position. He was the starter most of last season as well.

"A.J. is doing some good things. He's a kid with exceptional ability. He just has to do it every down, every day," Markuson evaluated. "Just be more consistent play-in and play-out. If he will do, we will have a real player at center.

"Evan Swindall is also doing some good things and is working hard pushing A.J."

Markuson said the Rebs may go all the way through spring and into August before "the five" are identified and solidified.

"As you can tell, we are working on a lot of combinations, but we'll get it all sorted out and figured out," he closed. "Can I say we will have our five by the end of spring? I can't answer that at this point.

"I feel good about Sowell, Massie and Hawkins, and Tank and Logan have played the guard positions before. So have Junen and Duke and Matt Hall and McCray are pushing. We'll see how it all shakes out, but probably not by next Saturday's spring game."

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