Answering the Call
These are exciting times for Ole Miss redshirt sophomore Robert Conyers.
Not so much for the Rebel offensive line as a whole, however.
Head coach Hugh Freeze said earlier this week Ole Miss will use Saturday’s game against Presbyterian as a way to rest most, if not all, of its injured players, including left tackle Laremy Tunsil, guard Aaron Morris and center Ben Still.
Tunsil (shoulder and bicep) and Morris (leg) won’t play at all in the game, set for 11 a.m. CT. Still will be, at best, limited.
But through adversity comes opportunity.
“It’s exciting to finally get out there, not like last year where I was just a depth guy,” the 6-foot-5, 295-pound Conyers said. “Going out there and being able to contribute is pretty fun.”
With three starters either out or banged up over the last few weeks, Freeze and staff have called on Conyers to step into an every-down role. Against LSU, a 10-7 loss, he started and played every snap in place of Still. In the Rebels’ 35-31 loss to Auburn last week, he manned right tackle.
Tunsil, despite dressing out, didn’t play a down against Auburn, meaning Fahn Cooper was moved in his place and Conyers, despite not practicing all week at the position, took over for Cooper.
Conyers didn’t find out about his new starting assignment until minutes before kickoff.
“It was a last-minute thing,” he said. “I don’t think I was as prepared as I should have been to play tackle. But I knew (playing for Tunsil) was going to happen, whether it was in the third quarter or whenever. He’s battling through something serious, so I just had to be ready.”
But unlike, say, a season ago, Conyers is better equipped to handle on-the-fly assignments and the versatility and flexibility that comes with being the sixth offensive lineman. He has to be ready when called upon, no matter the position.
Not to say it’s easy.
“The biggest thing was just the physical side of it,” Conyers said. “I knew what to do mentally, but transitioning from doing center stuff to tackle I don’t know if I was prepared for that.”
Conyers doesn’t have to worry about mixing and matching this week. He’s only practiced at tackle, giving way to a rotation of Chase Hughes and Craig Frigo at center.
Still will take first reps, sure, but how much he plays Saturday is unknown. He had no choice but to start against Auburn, and he gutted out an admirable performance despite a lingering MCL issue.
“It was funny because right before the game he said, ‘This is going to be interesting,’” Conyers said. “Every quarter I was saying, ‘Ben, we got three more. Ben, we got two more. Ben, we got one more.’ I’m proud of him. I could tell he was limping around but he toughed it out.”
That’s the story of the Ole Miss offensive line in week 11 of the season – tough it out and get by week to week. There’s no other choice, really. Games keep coming, though a much-need bye week looms.
The Rebels want to close strong.
“It felt like we won (vs. Auburn), but the scoreboard didn’t show it,” Conyers said. “It was really depressing, like the week before. It was kind of like that, an unknown feeling that we weren’t ready for.
“I think we might have a sour taste in our mouth still. Just have to be ready to work.”
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