Greg Little

A decimated Ole Miss offensive line is looking for answers as Georgia Southern nears

The Ole Miss offensive line did its part against Auburn Saturday.

But their efforts came at a price.

Tackle/center Sean Rawlings is in a walking boot after injuring his ankle in the 40-29 loss to the Tigers, while center Robert Conyers is dealing with a nagging knee injury that has severely limited his mobility. Add in ankle injuries to tackle Rod Taylor and guard Jordan Sims, as well as a hip pointer for reserve guard Daronte Bouldin, and suddenly the Rebels are not just razor thin depth-wise as they ready for a home date with Georgia Southern, they’re struggling to piece together a starting lineup.

Head coach Hugh Freeze said the Rebels worked without an offensive line in practice Sunday. The hope is Taylor returns for Georgia Southern, while true freshman Greg Little and redshirt freshman Alex Givens are slated to start their second-consecutive game at left tackle and right tackle, respectively. Javon Patterson will man his usual left guard spot.

“It’s not good right now,” Freeze said of the group. “This is one of those years where the injuries have followed us around.”

Sean Rawlings/USA Today images

Rawlings and Conyers are both questionable for Georgia Southern. Former walk-on Jacob Feely has center experience, and he can slide over to guard, too, if needed. Another walk-on, Talbot Buys, could slide in as the back-up at either tackle. Senior Jeremy Liggins is available. Same for Tyler Putman.

What seems certain is Freeze won’t be removing any redshirts from the likes of Bryce Mathews, Chandler Tuitt and others.

“It’s awful hard to burn a redshirt at this late date,” Freeze said. “We’ll try our best. Feely and Talbot Buys are two good walk-ons that have worked hard. We’ll call upon them to help get us ready. Sure would hate to pull a redshirt at this point with four games left in the season.”

Freeze said he was pleased with what he saw out of Givens and Little against Auburn.

“It was Alex’s first start and Greg Little’s first start against a very fine defensive line,” he said. “I thought they held their own and did well. Real proud. Think they’re going to be really good players. I thought (Ole Miss offensive line coach) Matt (Luke) did a good job of preparing the offensive line, having to move some people around and juggle some things to give us a chance.”

Little is a former five-star prospect who rated as the No. 1 tackle in the country coming out of high school. He’s been used only sparingly for most of the season, but with Taylor unavailable, Little helped pave the way for quarterback Chad Kelly to throw for a school-record 465 yards.

“I thought he did well,” Kelly said of Little. “The whole game, I really didn't feel any pressure on my back side. I thought he did an excellent job, especially against such a great front seven where they were mixing up all those guys against him. He held his own.

“He’s one of the biggest guys I’ve ever met. He’s a great player, he’s a great listener, he’s coachable. He does the things off the field that he’s asked to do. I see him being definitely a first-round (NFL Draft) pick in the near future. He’s really good. But I think a lot of those guys on the line are really starting to own up to what we’re doing. They’re working really hard, even Rod Taylor, Sean Rawlings, Jordan Sims, Daronte (Bouldin). All those guys are coming around right now.”

Ole Miss is 3-5 (1-4 SEC) on the season and is in the midst of its first three-game losing streak since 2013. The Rebels haven’t had a four-game skid since 2011. Georgia Southern is Ole Miss’ first unranked opponent since an Oct. 1 date with Memphis.

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