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Patrick Junen is back and hopefully as good as ever. That's the plan anyway.

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Junen, a senior offensive lineman, had a couple of major setbacks this year. There was a wrist surgery and a toe surgery. But recovery, rehab, and an open date week have Junen ready.

"I had two different injuries. It's been a different feeling, being my senior year and having to nurse some injuries to get back into things," he said. "The coaching staff has been great, holding me out of some games to get me ready for this long stretch."

Obviously the seasoned veteran knows what was needed and why things were done as they were. The Rebels had three games, then the open date. But then it was on the road at Alabama and Auburn, and back home for Texas A&M and LSU. He said it was beneficial for him the way things were handled.

And with this bye week, this is probably the best I've felt in a while," he said. "I'm really excited to be going again."

And in the Rebels' offense, you have to be going and going. The Rebels average 38.3 points per game. But Junen said they can be even better.

"When we're in our groove and everything's clicking, once we get that first down and stay on track, stay on schedule as Coach (Hugh) Freeze says, we can roll up and down the field and score pretty much when we want to," he said. "As long as we're on our tempo and going fast."

Which the Rebels have been for a while. Even Alabama head coach Nick Saban referred to the winning streak the Rebels have over two seasons now. It's five games, with two wins to end last season and three to start this one.

Junen said the offense, with more weapons this season, indeed picked right up where it ended last season with 41 points against Mississippi State and 38 against Pitt, both in lop-sided Ole Miss victories.

"Just looking back at the film from our last couple of games last year to where we are now, we haven't taken a step backward," Junen said. "We've kept on rolling and gotten better. With the new guys that have come in, especially the receivers, we've moved the ball down the field."

Junen said he's happy to be back rolling along with his offensive teammates.

"It's definitely been probably the toughest road," he said of what he's faced. "Two fairly major surgeries. It's not like an ankle injury. I was also on the scooter with my turf toe for three months during the summer. I'd hurt it during spring ball.

"Now I feel the best I've felt. I feel good and ready to get back in there."

Freeze said it's good to have Junen back to his old self.

Patrick Junen
Chuck Rounsaville

"He's as healthy as he's been," Freeze said. "He's ready to go. Had good practices (this week), so that's another guy that can give us a lot of reps. At the end of last year, he was arguably playing as well as anybody. So we're excited to get him back."

Junen, at 6-foot-7, said his weight had ballooned some, especially with his toe situation. But that's come off fairly quickly.

"I've lost quite a bit of weight. I'm down from 355 and now I'm about 335," he said. "That's a good thing. I definitely feel better. You can't play when you're that heavy, especially in this offense. You've got to be able to move."

There are now more people to "move" in this offense. It's one of the reasons the Rebels seem to be ready for the stretch of tough games that's upon them.

"We're able to have big bodies in there and roll them in and out," Junen said. "You're able to have good movement and it will keep guys fresh and conditioned to go on these drives. Last year we had five, maybe six guys that could play on the line. Now we've got seven or eight that can roll in there and give guys a break, especially with this tempo."

Junen said the talent level continues to rise for the Rebels. Take wide receiver, for example.

"We've got some of the best receivers in the country," he said. "If we're having issues running the ball, they're normally wide open. So it's nice to be able to rely on each other during the games."

Patrick Junen got back just in time, too. He's heading home for games in Tuscaloosa and Auburn. And he's ready.

"I'm from Alabama, so this is going home," he said. "This is where all my family is. So it's time to shine."

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