No Clarity in Tunsil Situation

Ole Miss benched left tackle Laremy Tunsil for the Rebels’ 76-3 win over UT-Martin on Saturday for precautionary reasons due to his eligibility status.

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How long he’ll remain out remains a mystery.

Head coach Hugh Freeze didn’t shed much, if any, light on the situation when meeting with the media for his weekly press conference Monday, only to say the program is “anxious for the end of it to come” and that a decision on whether to play him despite looming NCAA issues “would have to come from our administration.”

“It’s difficult. He’s one of my favorite kids,” Freeze said. “I think he’s a great kid. I love him dearly, and it’s difficult. We don’t talk about it a whole lot. I had to communicate to him that we were going to be very cautious and sit him out. And, you know, that hurts a guy like him.

“I know everyone is surprised, but really the way these things go for me, I’m just not included in a lot of the behind-the-scenes things that are going on. That can be quite frustrating and make you anxious at times, but I am confident that our people and whatever process is going on that they’re on top of it.”

The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Tunsil, a junior, was named a preseason All-American by a number of national magazines, including Sporting News and Athlon. He was an All-America second team selection last season, and he’s started 23 games over the last two seasons, all at left tackle.

“He’s anxious to get out there, just like anyone else would be,” Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly said. “But he knows what he’s dealing with. I think, at the end of the day, we’ll be all right.”

“Laremy’s the same person,” wide receiver Laquon Treadwell said. “He hasn’t changed since the whole accusations came upon him. He’s always been quiet and humble. Working hard, and he’s doing whatever to keep the team focused on our goals.”

The Ole Miss (1-0) offense rolled UT-Martin without Tunsil, piling up 662 total yards, 11 touchdowns and 28 first downs. The Rebels managed 338 rushing yards on 36 carries for a 9.4 yards-per-carry average, implementing a front that saw starting right tackle Fahn Cooper shift to left and redshirt freshman Sean Rawlings step in for his first start in place of Cooper.

“I definitely feel like this year with the offensive line there’s more depth than we’ve had,” Cooper said. “Definitely compared to last year and the spring, when we only had 10 guys. We’ve got a lot of guys who can play, and a lot of guys who are hungry to compete.”

“I think we can handle it,” running back Jordan Wilkins said. “Everyone has confidence in each other. I know Laremy is a very big part of our offense, but I think we have people who can step in and play a major role.”

Freeze said sophomore Rod Taylor will return to practice Tuesday. Taylor has been out the last few weeks with a torn labrum. He was slated to start at right guard prior to injury, but Freeze said the team will experiment with Taylor at left tackle this week.

Ole Miss hosts Fresno State Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

“I don’t think it scares you because all the guys here are well-prepared, and they did a great job preparing for this week,” Kelly said of the possibility of being without Tunsil for any length of time. “I’m sure any of those guys can step in and do a great job. Not having Laremy … it definitely stinks not having him out there. He’s been practicing, he’s been working hard, so whenever we get him back we’ll be in good hands.”

“I think this team is closer. We’re not going to let one player dictate the whole season,” Treadwell said. “It shows in the leadership of the team and different players stepping up in different roles. I just give that credit to the coaches and the leadership of the team in allowing people to buy into what the coaches want and holding each other accountable.”

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