Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt is always asking his assistants, who's next?
The meaning: who's next on the depth chart? Who is ready? Who can contribute? Who can come in when someone is injured and not hurt the production of the team? Who can be trusted to get the job done?
That is one of the biggest questions facing Rebel Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator Mike Markuson.
"At guard and center, it's Brandon Green. Mark Jean-Louis is getting there at center, but we are still developing the confidence in him to get the ball to the quarterback, especially in gun situations, effectively, but he's coming," said Mike. "Brandon has done a good job. He's going to do the right things and he has an understanding of our line calls and defenses. With A.J. Hawkins and Alex Washington, who we have moved inside where he is more natural, our issue is not inside, it's at tackle, right tackle specifically.
"At left tackle, it's freshman Bobby Massie, but at this point in his career, he's not a swing guy. He's not a guy I can clutter up mentally by trying to teach him both tackle slots. That leaves me looking for a backup right tackle. What is Logan Clair going to do? I'm not sure yet. Reid Neely is a possibility. He played some in spring there and did a decent job. But let's hope we don't have to find out. If we are looking for a right tackle, that means something has happened to John Jerry, and that's something we can't afford at all."
Inquiring minds also want to know about the progress of sophomore LT Bradley Sowell.
It's a legitimate concern. Forget that he's replacing All-American Michael Oher. The issue is whether or not he can protect preseason Heisman Trophy candidate Jevan Snead's blind side.
"I feel good about Bradley, based on spring training and his summer workouts," said Markuson. "He has a great attitude and has worked hard. He's done all the things to indicate to us he will be able to fill that position this year with effectiveness.
"He's like any young kid who has waited in line and waited for his turn. He's going to have to learn some things on the run, but it's time to go. He earned it and I think he will capitalize on the opportunity. Brad has to go through a process like any young player who has not played. Oher was not as good as a sophomore as he as as a senior, but Bradley is ready to tackle the process. He will continue to get better and better and get stronger and stronger."
The main things Markuson is looking for out of Sowell are good fundamentals, understanding of the assignments and playing fast.
"He'll make mistakes and we'll correct them as we go. Again, it's a process," Mike said. "But if he'll make his mistakes using good fundamentals and playing fast, he'll be just fine. I always tell them, when you make a decision, right or wrong, make it full speed. Don't guess. Make a decision and hit somebody."
Markuson's crew had a recent setback, of sorts, when starting Right Guard Rishaw Johnson ran afoul of team rules and is currently in the doghouse, being demoted to third team as of Wednesday.
"You've got to be smarter and more disciplined to play on this team," said Coach Houston Nutt. "Right now, we are getting Brandon Green and A.J. Hawkins ready to go. We'll see on Rishaw."
Green and Hawkins are two of the players Markuson put in the "next" category. For now, "next" is needed.
A bonus has popped up since camp started. Markuson is high on walkon Chris Gill, who Mike would like to groom as a center.
"We told him we were going to make a center out of him and I already see potential. He's very smart, a very heady and serious kid," Mike stated. "I love the way he responds to coaching and he's got a great frame to build on. He's a definite bonus."
Markuson has also been very pleased with his early looks of LT Bobby Massie, which he expected to be.
"I figured he would be good, but I don't think I realized how athletic he is until I got him out there and worked him some," Mike stated. "When John Jerry tells me he's strong, you believe it. He has impressive tools. My job is to stay patient with him - it will come.
"Emmanuel McCray and Mike Brown are also impressive freshmen. Give them a year and they will be fine. They are both great students and want to be good. They have great bodies to work with. I feel real good about all four of our freshmen. I think their futures are very bright and I can't tell you how pleased I am with our bonus, Gill."
Mike Markuson -
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