Tunsil Watch Continues
The question is when, if ever.
Five games have passed - four wins and one loss - and Tunsil has been on the sideline for each of them due to still unresolved NCAA issues regarding his eligibility status. Even more puzzling, information has been hard to come by.
Even for Freeze.
“That’s the most difficult part is to see the young man as weeks go by,” he said. “It’s difficult to watch. He’s handling it as well as anybody could, but he’s antsy (and) just hopeful for finality to it. As are we. I hope to hear back this week, but I have not heard anything to this point. I’m just hopeful that it can be resolved this week quickly and get him back with us.”
“It's really not that frustrating,” senior Fahn Cooper, who has shifted from his regular right tackle position to replace Tunsil this season, said. “You try not to think about it. There's way too much other stuff going on with just trying to be prepared for all these games, dealing with injuries and stuff as well. Having an extra guy out there would help everybody out a lot.
Ole Miss (4-1, 2-1 SEC) dropped from No. 3 to No. 14 in the AP Top 25 poll following its 38-10 loss at Florida over the weekend. The Rebels struggled up front in the loss, with quarterback Chad Kelly facing pressure (four sacks surrendered) and the rushing attack unable to muster much on the ground (2.1 yards per carry).
Along with Tunsil, Ole Miss was without starting guard Justin Bell, who has now missed two straight games after 28 consecutive starts. He’s been battling an ankle injury. Starting center Robert Conyers played, but he’s dealt with a knee injury, and projected starter Rod Taylor has been limited because of a torn labrum in his shoulder.
Suffice to say, the Rebels need their All-American back. When a final resolution comes, though, remains a mystery.
“I won’t let my mind go there,” Freeze said of Tunsil potentially missing the year. “From what I know, which is limited, I would think that he’s going to be back with us at some time. It’s frustrating as a coach when you deal with young men and their futures and they’re part of your family here. Let’s just get to the finality of that. I do think that’s coming, hopefully this week.”
“He's definitely not letting this stuff get him down,” Cooper said. “He’s a very mature guy. That's something I learned about him when I first got here, especially to be as young as he is. It's not like it's the end of the world for him and stuff like that. I know he's still working hard. He's still at practice with a good attitude and trying to do whatever he can to improve and be ready for whenever they let him come back and play.”
Tunsil was a preseason All-American and All-SEC selection, and he was named to watch lists for the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award. A two-year starter at left tackle, Tunsil made several All-America and All-SEC teams a year ago. He’s allowed only two sacks in his entire college career.
Cooper said getting Tunsil back would obviously be a big deal.
“It will give a lot of guys come confidence, because they know, 'Oh man, he's a really good player.' A lot of people may have forgot, but he's pretty good,” he said. “I know for me it would just be fun, being back to being bookends with one of the best tackles there is. It will just add to our arsenal of offensive linemen.”
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