Andrew Wicker's had a tough time of it since moving over from defense to offense in the spring.
There was the foot injury that he finally got rid of this summer. Then it reoccurred in August.
Then there was learning to play the offensive line as opposed to being on the defensive side of things.
But lately the 6-foot-5, 290-pound junior from Zachary, La., has found the going a bit better. In turn, the offensive line has also benefited.
"We have some guys that are inexperienced on the offensive line, and I'm one of them," Wicker said. "Repetition means so much. The more you practice and play, the more comfortable you are in your stance, the more comfortable you are with the cadence. It just becomes a rhythm. With more reps, that improvement will come for all of us."
Wicker says learning to play on offense in the actual games has been challenging and rewarding.
"On defense you always just get ready and look at the offensive front," he said. "You watch the ball and you go after it when it's snapped. You act like a wild man and try to go get the football. On offense hearing the snap count is so important. You really have a lot of responsibility on offense. You have to play controlled. You have to make checks and reads and who you're going to. It really is a huge transition. I've made some strides, but I have a long ways to go."
Wicker says eliminating penalties and mental mistakes are crucial in that improvement process for the O-line.
"It's just kills you," said Wicker of those type miscues when an offense is trying to move the football. "It just kills the situation you're in. It kills your momentum. If it's first and 10 and you gain 15 yards but there's a holding call, then it's brought back and it's first and 20. You can't have that type thing happen and be successful. We've had that happen way too much this season."
While Wicker said it was obvious the Rebel offense moved the football better at Tennessee, especially on a couple of sustained drives, they aren't where they need to be yet.
"Those were good drives but we've got to do that a lot," he said. "We've got to be able to establish drives throughout the games and not stall with penalties and mistakes."
Ole Miss offensive line coach George DeLeone says a healthy Wicker continues to be an important part of the offensive line for the Rebels.
"He's been a little healthier lately, and that's helped" DeLeone said. "I thought he played better against Tennessee than he did against Wyoming. Now he has to have another good game this weekend. He's getting better. Let's see how far he can go now. Let's see how far he can improve. There has been improvement, and that's a positive sign right now. I'm excited about what he's doing and the improvement he's making. He brings some toughness to us that we need."
The Rebel coaches opted to play less players against Tennessee along the offensive front, and that seemed to solidify some things for the unit. Pass protection was some better, as was run blocking.
"In the games that we've played, the offensive line guys have fought every play and have given very, very good effort," DeLeone said. "No matter the situation, they've fought well. I thought against Tennessee at times we protected the passer well. Obviously pass protection was not perfect, so we have to work better there. At times we had some good runs. But our run consistency is nowhere near where it has to be. We've got to get better in that area.
"We are beginning to get some continuity now," DeLeone continued. "We've been seeing that lately. We have a long way to go and we're not where we want to be. But now that we have a core group working together, maybe we're beginning to see some things that will help us down the stretch."
DeLeone says he feels badly that things have not been better up front on offense through four games.
"I'm just disappointed in myself that I haven't been able to get these guys to play better," he said. "No excuses. I'm their coach. I'm ultimately responsible for how they play. I've just been very, very frustrated that I haven't been able to help them play better. It's my job to get them to play better down the stretch."
Wicker, DeLeone talk offensive line play
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