OL Improves

After an opening game that left a lot to be desired from an offensive line standpoint, the Rebel OL rebounded well with a better performance against UTEP in the second game. RT Pierce Burton believes his group is on the right track.

Even though the Rebel offense rolled up over 500 yards of offense against Central Arkansas in the season opener, nobody on the inside was very pleased with the play of the offensive line.

But when the UTEP game came around and the Rebels were able to rush for 332 yards on 46 carries for a 7.2 yards per carry average, the forward wall got better grades from Offensive Line Coach Matt Luke.

Ole Miss Right Tackle Pierce Burton, in his first year at Ole Miss after transferring from a California JUCO, was not surprised to see the improvement.

"It's common knowledge that you make your biggest jumps in improvement from the first game to the second game. We worked on a few things last week we had problems with and got those fixed and it worked," he said. "We gave up some linebacker run-throughs we shouldn't have, but Coach Luke got that straight with us.

"Coach Luke has a great knack for explaining things where we can understand them. There are a lot of grey areas in playing the OL because there are so many different ways you can block one play, so he got us out of the grey areas and into black and white. We understood what to do against UTEP a bit better."

Pierce admitted to a lack of communication and execution in the UCA game, but he expected some of that.

"People have to realize we have pretty much a brand new OL. I'm completely new, Emmanuel (McCray) was a backup last year. Evan (Swindall) and Aaron (Morris) played some last year but not a lot and in a different system," Burton explained. "A.J. played a lot, but he's been a center and a guard and in two different systems.

Pierce Burton
File Photo

"It takes time to put it all together. It's just a matter of us meshing and it helped us to have a better outing the second time out. That gives us confidence we are only going to get better as the season rolls on."

Even with the improvement against UTEP, Burton is not satisfied.

"We did not play nearly as good as we can. We still made way too many mistakes. We should have had more points and a lot more yards," he said.

Pierce said it took a lot of hard work and patience to get where they are now, but, again, he doesn't feel they are a finished product in the least.

"We've come a long way since spring training. We were all over the place in spring and, really, in early fall camp, but we kept our eyes on the inch-by-inch improvement and have made some big steps," he explained. "We have a lot more steps to take, but we are at least headed in the right direction.

"Also, having had just a little taste of success has motivated us even more and given us more confidence. We look forward to making more advancements as the weeks click by. Now that we have come this far, why not take it a step or two further?"

Burton believes it has helped the cause of the OL to have a leader - Wallace - emerging.

"Bo was real timid up until about 10 days before the first game, but now that he is the starter, he is the clear leader and he's speaking loudly and running the show," he added. "That's given all of us someone to listen to who is in charge. I like the way he is commanding the offense."

During the UTEP game, Luke tried some different combinations for a series. He moved Burton to LT, took McCray out, moved Justin Bell to LG, Morris to RG, put Patrick Junen at RT and Hawkins switched to center.

"I felt fine at LT - I have played there before. Coach Luke knows we will need more than five guys and he is trying to find out who can play where before we get into these bigger games like this week against Texas," Burton said. "I got a lot of reps at LT Sunday because I may be needed there. Same goes with the other guys - you never know when your number might be called and you have to be prepared. I know I will be - LT, RT, I don't care, I will be ready."

Texas is up next and Burton gets the fact that the challenge gets bigger.

"We are real confident in our abilities, so I am not worried about Texas as much as I am worried about us and our responsibility to get it right," he noted. "If we play our game, to the best of our ability, we can live with whatever happens and hopefully we will come out on top.

"We know Texas is good, real good. They have great athletes and great tradition. We want some of what they have, so we look forward to the challenge."

At 2-0, the Rebels are gaining some notoriety around campus, but Burton says that does not affect him much.

"We are blocking it out some, but we are also feeding off it. This program has not been 3-0 for a long time and that would be real nice," he said. "But as an offensive lineman, hardly anyone recognizes me. Bo (Wallace) is in one of my classes, though, and he's getting a lot of attention.

"We are kind of obscure compared to those skill guys, but I am OK with that as long as we are playing well. We were rated the last OL in the preseason and we want to prove that wrong. We don't really care about the accolades, just the results."

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