Conyers Shows Versatility

Last year, Rebel OL Emmanuel McCray could be plugged in anywhere on the offensive line - other than center - and produce. This year, it looks like the Mr. Versatile role on the offensive line will go to sophomore Robert Conyers. The only thing that will stop him fromtaht role is if he becomes a starter, which is a distinct possibility.

It's one thing - tough enough - to play guard and tackle on the collegiate level.

For the past two years, Emmanuel McCray did that effectively and was praised for his versatility.

It's even harder to play tackle and center.

That's what sophomore Robert Conyers is currently undertaking and, from all reports, he's doing so successfully.

"The center has to know much more and make line checks and snap the ball. It's not an easy position," explained Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze. "To have a guy who can play center and, really, all the OL positions, like Robert can, is very valuable to us."

Conyers takes it all in stride.

"I'm just trying to embrace them both," said what seems to be a much more mature Conyers after arriving at Ole Miss two years ago with the reputation of being an alligator wrestler from Miami, FL. "I just want to get in there and help us win ballgames. That's all that matters.

"If I can help at center some and right tackle some, that would be fine with me. We all just want to win and any role we need to play, we are in."

Ole Miss offensive lineman Robert Conyers.

It's been a well-conceived and well-planned transition for Conyers.

Offensive Line Coach Matt Luke saw what was coming the spring of 2012 - that then starting center Evan Swindall would be graduating after 2013 - and he knew he had to start getting someone besides Ben Still ready too man the center slot.

He called on Conyers , who he broke in slowly.

"First, it was just starting out practice with the quarterbacks getting a feel for snapping the ball in the shotgun," Conyers explained. "That's not as easy as it looks for someone who has never done it, but after a spring and season of snapping every day, I felt comfortable that I was adequate at that.

"Then, last spring, when I actually got in team situations at center, it was difficult learning all the calls at first, but that came around too."

One of the duties of center, as Conyers explains it, is getting the OL lined up correctly and making the right line call.

"You have to see the whole front seven on defense - the linebackers, the shades, the one techniques - and getting everyone lined up and going in the right direction and on the same page," he noted. "It took me a while, but I think I have picked that up pretty well."

In the offseason, Conyers tried to put on some weight, get stronger and maintain his speed and quickness - standard fare in the summer.

"I saw gains in those areas," noted the 295-pounder. "I also worked on my flexibility so I could play lower and my hand placement.

"I'm still playing a little too high, but I am fitting my hands better than I ever have, taking better steps than I ever have and seeing things better than I ever have."

At center, Conyers is working on getting his snaps a little lower.

"I have an occasional high snap, which I have to eliminate, but I'm getting there," he assessed.

Conyers doesn't seem to be overly concerned early in this fall camp that the defensive line has had the edge most days thus far.

"We're still learning how to communicate with each other and meshing as a unit. With the young guys we are using, that's the biggest thing. You have to get the mental part down before you can get physical and just hit someone without thinking," he stated. "We'll come around. When you have a guy like Robert Nkemdiche across from you, you can't hesitate. He is so physical and quick, you better know what you are doing. We have other defensive linemen as well that can beat anyone, so we have a great learning ground.

"We feel if we can hold our own against them, we can compete and hold our own with anyone. Right now, there are a lot of times when we aren't holding our own, but we see progress and becoming a tight OL unit is a process every year."

So where does Conyers fit in?

"He's very valuable to us," noted Freeze. "He's battling for the starting center job and the starting right tackle job. He could win either.

"But if he doesn't, we will have a very good sixth man, so to speak. We trust Robert and think he will be a big asset to our OL this year."

Conyers has paid his dues.

He redshirted in 2012 and played sparingly in 2013, but he did get his feet wet and wanted more.

"I'm like several other guys on our OL. We have put in the work and now it's our turn to contribute in bigger roles to the team," he closed. "I'm looking forward to it."

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