When Laremy Tunsil was suspended last season for seven games, Right Tackle Fahn Cooper had to move to left tackle, leaving the right tackle slot to a redshirt freshman, one Sean Rawlings.
In his third game, Sean was facing the vaunted defensive line of the Alabama Crimson Tide, the eventual national champions.
He didn't blink as the Rebels pulled off the win in Tuscaloosa.
"It's tough to be young in that situation, but it's the only way to learn - to be thrown in the fire," said Rawlings. "Experience is what is going to make you better. You can run all the drills you want and practice all you want, but game sets, game reps, that is what makes you improve."
Rawlings started the seven games that Tunsil missed and then played in three more contests after Laremy returned and Fahn moved back over to RT. For his efforts, Gridironnow named him to the SESC All-Freshman team.
Center Robert Conyers had to have knee surgery and was out the entire spring, which gave Sean an opportunity to play and learn the center slot as well.
"I played through a wrist injury I had in spring and learned another position. It was good for me. I feel I can go to center if needed and do a good job," the current number one RT stated. "I am not completely comfortable at center, but I am getting there. I am completely comfortable at right tackle."
Rawlings is a big part of a relatively young offensive line. Currently, there are three sophomores - Rawlings, Jordan Sims, Javon Patterson - a junior - Rod Taylor - and a senior - Robert Conyers - running with the number one unit with a redshirt freshman - Alex Givens - and a true freshman - Greg Little - as the main backups. That can change daily, but as of last Tuesday, that's how it was panning out.
So how does Rawlings feel about where the offensive line is?
"We still have to keep working on communication, which is always ongoing, but I think overall we are doing great," he stated. "I think we have made progress every day. I think we will definitely be ready for our first game against Florida State. We have more work to do, for sure, but so far, we are on track."
Sean has faith in the guys around him, especially RG Sims.
"Jordan and I are really close. We roomed together our freshman year and are good friends. We feel really comfortable with each other, which helps our communication. It's like we already know what each other is doing without saying a word so that's kind of a special bond between me and him," he explained. "I am so proud of Jordan. He came in here at 386 pounds and has worked his butt off to get to where he is now."
His admiration does not stop with Sims.
"Conyers is a great leader. We listen to him," Sean said. "Rod is a terrific athlete, Alex is going to be a really good player as he gets experience, Javon is like Jordan and I - ready to go and I love the look of our true freshmen. I think Greg Little is going to be special in time. He is a fast learner and he practices hard. Royce Newman is also going to be special. I think all the freshmen OL are going to have really good careers. That's a good class.
"Alex is switching back and forth between LT and RT and is not having any mental hiccups, which is good to see and hard to do. He's going to be really good."
And the offense?
"We seem to be able to go faster this fall than we did in the spring because we have Robert back and Rod back and Jordan, Javon and I know what to do. I think we will be more prepared for our first game this year than we were last year," Rawlings noted. "It also helps a lot to have a veteran quarterback in Chad Kelly. He's confident and he knows what he is doing. That gives us confidence as well. We also have confidence in Jason (Pellerin) in the jumbo package and it seems we move as a unit just as good when Shea (Patterson) is in there. They are both going to be really good players when Chad graduates."
Yes, the OL is relatively young, age-wise, but as Sean Rawlings explains it, they have enough experience to get the job done.
As he stated, the OL is coming around.