Bowl Eligible

Ole Miss OG Justin Bell doesn't have to look too far into the past to realize where the football program was when he got to Ole Miss and the difference in where it is now.

Rebel OG Justin Bell steals a line from Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze when asked about the Rebels being bowl eligible (6-3) with three games remaining.

"As Coach Freeze says, we are not where we want to be yet, but we are ahead and far from where we used to be," Bell said. "It feels great to be where we are right now.

"Last year, we were playing 60 (minutes) for 6 (wins) against our in-state rivals. That was a lot of pressure. This year, we still have pressure, but it's not that win-or-go-home kind of pressure. Now, it's how high can we go. We will determine that by how we play the last three games. It's all in our hands and right there in front of us."

Bell relays a feeling of accomplishment, but not satisfaction.

"We can't rest on this, but I can tell you there is a sense of achievement on the team," he continued. "We are not satisfied where we are - we want to do better than we did a year ago and there's a lot more to accomplish to achieve that, but to become bowl eligible with three to go is something that we are proud of."

Bell looks back just two short years ago when the Rebels finished 2-10 his redshirt freshman year.

"To come as far as we have in a short amount of time shows that we are fighters. It shows we really wanted to turn things around here," he added. "We want our fans to be excited and we want to go into each game believing we are going to win.

Justin Bell
Chuck Rounsaville

"This is a 180-degree turn from just two years ago."

Against Arkansas, the Rebels were not able to run the ball as well as they had liked, but Bell said that did not matter.

"Arkansas put an extra hat in the box and they were squeezing and scraping a lot which threw us off for a while," he explained, "but we adjusted and went to our passing game more and were able to put up more than 500 yards of total offense. It's just as fun, to me, to pass block as it is to run block. We take pride in it - the hand placement, the movement of our feet and hitting our landmarks with our hands. It's fun.

"The good thing about our offense is that you may be able to slow down one area, but it's nearly impossible to slow down both. We took care of Bo (Wallace) in the pocket and he and the receivers had a monster day."

Freshman LT Laremy Tunsil, despite suffering from flu-like symptoms and only playing a little more than a half of the game against Arkansas, was named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week.

Bell was very pleased for the big frosh.

"I saw him getting out of class and was walking with him. I said 'I can't believe it, I'm walking with the SEC Lineman of the Week.' I was playing with him," Bell stated. "I'm really happy for him. We're family and he's like the little brother in our group.

"He is such a talent. His footwork, his athleticism - he's a natural born baller. I was amazed when I first saw him comparing him to myself as a true freshman. And the great thing is that he will only get better from here. There's always room for improvement, but he already does everything pretty well. He always keeps his feet moving, which is critical to an OL and especially an LT with the speed guys who come off the edge in this league."

Bell has had a stellar season thus far at right guard, but next year may present a different scenario for him.

Center Evan Swindall graduates this year and OL Coach Matt Luke is going to be searching hard for a replacement.

Robert Conyers, Ben Still and Bell are at the top of his list right now. Bell has been working some there in pre-practice snapping drills.

"I like center, if that's where I'm needed. I'd be just fine with that," he said. "Center was my first position in football.

"I think that Coach Luke likes the fact that I know the offense and am smart enough to handle the checks and calls. I have also learned a lot from Evan. It's all about repetition. We'll see how the chips fall in spring, but if that's where Coach Luke wants me, I'm all for it."

Meanwhile, the Rebs are now set on improving their bowl position and Bell relates the team's stance on that mission.

"It's simple. We want to win them all and see where that puts us - Dallas? Atlanta? Florida somewhere? I don't know, but our fate is in our hands and we are going to do all we can to get it done," he closed.

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