Building chemistry around the offensive line is top priority in the first full week of preseason practice for the Ole Miss football team.
The Rebels took a big hit with senior tackle Alex Givens unable to practice with the team after undergoing back surgery in July. Head coach Matt Luke revealed on Monday that Givens will travel to Jackson on Tuesday to get reevaluated. Givens’ recovery time forces the Rebels to go with a few less experienced reserves in starting positions.
‘They realize all of the talk that’s out there, so they just kind of go prepare with a sense of urgency and a chip on their shoulder,” Luke said. “Some of the young guys need to get ready a bit quicker and some of the older guys need to step up.”
Senior Micheal Howard has been asked to step in immediately with the absence of Givens.
“Micheal Howard has really stepped up there. That added weight has really helped him,” Luke said. “We’re just looking at a bunch of different lineups.”
Howard has seen limited time on the field in previous years as he’s struggled to maintain the weight required to be an offensive lineman in the SEC. However, this offseason he was able to put on 20-25 pounds.
“Everything I saw I ate.” he said. “If it was there and it was edible I had to eat it. It was just a mindset that I have to get bigger, I have to be there to back my guys up.”
Matt Luke and his staff will preach versatility along the offensive line as the lack of depth will force some players to play several different positions. Howard can moved from right tackle to left tackle, Bryce Mathews can play center and tackle and Royce Newman can move from guard to tackle. Matt Luke and Jack Bicknell will use the next few weeks to determine the best combination moving forward.
Freshmen Jalen Cunningham, Nick Broeker and Jeremy James have also seen additional reps.
“They’re young, so the more the better,” Luke said