Rounding Into Form

Eli Johnson out of Lafayette, Miss., lined up in the first offensive series in the '13 state championship game and left with a torn ACL. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound offensive lineman never missed a game his junior season but wasn't quite himself. Now he feels like he is 100% back.

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"I feel like I'm finally back," Johnson said. "I feel like I'm as strong as I was before I injured my leg. I'm finally 100% back. Last year I felt like my quickness was all the way back, but my lower body was not. I'm so much stronger now. I couldn't really work out my lower body last year. When I got the go to start back on my squats in the off season it made all the difference in the world. I'm able to finish people off now. My drive blocking is much better. That's the biggest thing."

Eli knows there is still room for improvement before he enters SEC play.

"I feel like I'm a really physical player and have good feet, but where I can improve on the most is my hand placements. I need to get better with that and my timing on my punches. I'm a lot better at inside zone blocking than outside. I'm really good when I can get my hands on someone in a hurry, like playing in a phone booth so-to-speak, but when I have to get out in space I'm not as good. I just need to do a better job in playing in space."

That could be one of the reasons that Ole Miss projects him to move from offensive tackle where he has played in high school to center or possibly guard.


"I think that could be a big reason because I'm a lot better in close spaces, but I think mainly it's due to my height. If I were 6-foot-4 I could play anywhere, but they see me more as a center or maybe even guard. Playing in the inside will match up to my strengths. That could be another reason. We have never really discussed that. "

Scout's #54 rated guard grew up an Ole Miss fan. This past Saturday he watched the game as any fan would while cooking out at his house.

"That was awesome to sit there and watch it as a fan. It was great for the program. The offense played great. The defense played great. Their special teams played great. They played as one unit. That's what makes this team so special. It will be one to remember for a while. I can't wait to get to see them play Saturday against Vandy."

What does Johnson focus on while watching Ole Miss play?

"I just really watch the linemen. It's kind of hard being a linemen to focus on the game because you can't follow the ball. You just zoom in on the offensive linemen. What I've noticed is that they have a whole lot of talent. They do a good job of getting movement. They play well across the board."

The Rebels played as many as three freshmen offensive linemen against Alabama. They will graduate five of their twelve man rotation.

"I don't really focus on that, to be honest. I try and focus on becoming a better player. I'll see where the chips fall when I get into spring training. I want to do what Jevan Patterson did and get in there in the spring and just learn the offense and go from there. But right now I'm just working on my techniques and becoming the best player I can be before I report to Ole Miss in January."


Yancy Porter is the recruiitng analyst for the Ole Miss Spirit and he can be reached at yporter@scout.com





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