His quarterback days behind him, senior Rebel looking to earn starting OL job

Jeremy Liggins isn’t a quarterback anymore. He hasn’t been for some time now.

But he’s good with it. Actually, he’s not only grown to accept that fact, he’s embracing his football future as an offensive lineman. A tackle, in fact.

“With this opportunity to go make this money and play this position,” he said, “I just say forget quarterback. I’m an offensive lineman now.”

Liggins always seemed destined for a position change in college. 

He was an accomplished prep quarterback, leading nearby Lafayette High School to 32 straight wins and back-to-back 4A state titles. But when he committed to LSU in 2012, he was already pushing 300 pounds. He split time at quarterback and defensive end in junior college, and his arrival at Ole Miss in 2014 brought another move. He was tried at tight end, where he earned five starts, and he was used predominately as a tight end last season, though he also took some snaps as the team’s short-yardage quarterback.

He’s worked at left and right tackle this spring. Has he finally found a home? Liggins thinks so.

“I feel like I belong there,” Liggins said. “I played there last spring, so I know the calls and checks. I played there quite a bit in bowl practice, too. It’s one of the main positions I played. I’ve been prepared for this. I’ve really been waiting on it, man, my opportunity to showcase my talent at this position. I just look at it as best.”

“I've been really pleased with Jeremy,” Ole Miss offensive line coach Matt Luke said. “Jeremy’s really, really athletic, so I've been pleased with what he's done the first four days. I think he has a lot of carryover from the reps we got him at o-line and bowl practices and things like that, so there is some carryover, which helps. We're still in the early stage of install, but he's done well retaining what we've done so far. We're going pretty slow, but he's done well as far as retaining the information.”

Ole Miss lost both of its tackles following its 10-3 campaign last season. Laremy Tunsil, who started 28 games in three years and allowed only two sacks, opted to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. He’s widely expected to go No. 1 overall to the Tennessee Titans next month. Fahn Cooper started every game in his two seasons at Ole Miss.

The Rebels signed the top tackle of the 2016 recruiting cycle in five-star Greg Little, as well as five additional linemen led from four-star tackles Royce Newman and Bryce Mathews. Of the group, only three-star Eli Johnson is currently on campus, meaning there’s opportunity for Liggins. 

He welcomes the challenge.

“Some good stuff, some bad stuff,” head coach Hugh Freeze said of Liggins, who currently weighs 315. “Some uncertainty, which is to be expected. He’s very athletic. We’re excited. I think it’s a good move for him, good move for us. If you look, percentage-wise, he played a very small percentage of snaps. He’s too athletic to not have him on the field. We’ve got to find a way to get him on there.”

“Either one, really,” Liggins said, when asked if he’s prefers one tackle spot over the other. “It’s not too much difference from left to right. I would say the left side it’s probably more man-on a lot of times, but it’s not much difference.”

Tunsil has been a regular at practices this spring, and Liggins has stayed in his ear. He’s also wearing No. 78, just as Tunsil did in his Rebel career. 

“I think the biggest thing is he just looks more comfortable,” Luke said. “He doesn't look out of place even with his stance. The communication with the guys, I don't think he feels like it's foreign. I think he's one of the guys, and he's embracing that role. He's doing a good job.”

Don’t think Liggins is trying to become the next Tunsil. Who can be? Rather, he’s working to be the best tackle possible — an almost unfathomable thought four years ago.

But Liggins is only looking ahead. So long, quarterback.

“I got some pretty big shoes to fill, but I’ve been talking to L.T. about the position a lot,” Liggins said. “He thinks I’m going to be good at it. I’ve been working. Hopefully, I can fill his shoes.”

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