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February 11, 2010

Signing day analysis: Offensive line

(Editor's note: For six years, Dave Childers has provided a position by position analysis beginning the day after National Signing Day. In a multipart series, he breaks down the class for RebelSports.net. A look has been provided for quarterbacks, tight ends running backs, wide receivers, and linebackers (see links below) and today the offensive line is reviewed.  In the coming days, the series will look at the defensive line, linebackers, and defensive backs.)

The skinny …  Ole Miss headed into the 2010 recruiting season wanting to sign "five or six" offensive linemen, and it managed to get there through a somewhat circuitous route.  The Rebels inked four prospects on signing day and picked up two other future players by way of one transferring and one enrolling after signing in 2009 and taking a grayshirt season.

Early last season with the Rebels struggling some, the Ole Miss line came under some criticism, but by season's end, offensive line coach Mike Markuson had the group playing well. That's the good news; the bad news is the line took some serious hits due to graduation, beginning with the versatile John Jerry, who could play at either position on the right side of the center.  Speaking of centers, Daverin Geralds is also gone as is long time contributor Reid Neely.  Depth at backup center/guard is also gone with the departure of Mark Jean-Louis along with guard Brandon Green.  The Rebels also lost longtime long snapper Preston Powers.

Returning are two bookend tackles, Bradley Sowell, who struggled at left tackle early in the season but improved with experience, and Bobby Massie, who appeared to find a home at right tackle and should be a fixture for the next two years.  Everything else is up for grabs.  Markuson began re-building in the middle, where he has brought in Evan Swindall, a grayshirt from the 2009 signing class, and Chase Hughes, an early high school graduate who is also enrolled.  Both will benefit from having the spring to work on strength and conditioning and learning the system.  The early nod probably goes to Swindall by virtue of him getting to practice during Cotton Bowl preparations and by being a year older.  Hughes, while on campus, may be limited in the spring due to a shoulder injury he suffered last fall.  Look for Markuson to add depth and a little competition to the position by working out a current guard at the position, likely A.J. Hawkins

One guard position is likely to go to Rishaw Johnson, a super talented player at 6-foot-4, 295 pounds, who saw action last fall and was the preferred right guard before he was essentially let go from the team to concentrate on getting his academics and attitude in order.  If he returns ready to play, the Rebels should be fine at one guard. The other guard is up for grabs, and could go to Hawkins or any number of players who could get a look, including Michael Brown, a redshirt freshman who offers great size, or a sleeper that Markuson appears to like in walk-on Chris Gill, a three-star rated prospect from Hargrave Military Academy who redshirted last fall.  Competition for back-up and playing time at both guard and tackle position will include a long list of players, like Alex Washington, Logan Clair, Don Mosley, Josh Tatum and Zack Brent.

The Rebels return back-up long snapper Wesley Phillips and signed Will Denny, who will be allowed to compete immediately for playing time.

The ones that got away ...  Ole Miss lost out on a host of prospects that they offered, including five-star Shon Coleman (Auburn), Nick Demien (Missouri), Dan Koenig (Oklahoma State), Chris Littlehead (Oklahoma State), Du'Von Millsap (South Carolina), and Anthony Gatti (Missouri).

Overall assessment ...  Considering the grayshirt and transfer players, Ole Miss ended up with a nice offensive line class.  However, most of the prospects appear to be in the category of being a year or two away before being ready for SEC play.  The exception may be Swindall, who may be forced into action ready or not due to pressing demands at center.  Duke and Matt Hall, a former four-star prospect who transferred from Arkansas, should provide depth at tackle in a year and both have big frames that could develop into prototype tackles.  If Swindall wins the center competition, Hughes could play guard and offer depth at center, but with his injury, may be a year away.  Hackney was a nice pickup, but likely is a year or two project before he can compete due to limited high school experience.  While the Rebels will have to rely largely on returning talent to replace major losses this fall, the 2010 signing class definitely builds for the future.

Grade: B

The signees…

Will Denny, OL/LS, 6-0, 240, Jackson (Jackson Academy), MS. Earned first team All-State honors from the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools .... Helped lead Jackson Academy to a 12-1 record as a senior ... Named one of the top 12 performers at the Chris Sailor National Kicking and Snapping competition ... Coached in high school by David Sykes.

Jared Duke, OL, 6-6, 325, Cleveland (Walker Valley HS), TN.  A SuperPrep All-Region pick and rated the No. 11 player in Tennessee ... Earned first team Class 5A All-State honors from the Tennessee Sports Writers Association and Tennessee Varsity as a senior ... Named to the PrepStar preseason All-Region team ... Rated the No. 13 player in Tennessee and the No. 67 offensive tackle in the nation by Rivals.com ... Ranked the No. 8 player in Tennessee and the No. 33 offensive guard in the country by Scout.com ... Named to The Tennessean's 2009 Dream Team ... Coached in high school by Ted Lockerby.

Terrence Hackney, OL, 6-4, 320, Hargrave Military Academy, Chatham, VA. PREP SCHOOL: Rated the No. 32 prep school player in the nation by Rivals.com ... Coached in prep school by Robert Prunty ... HIGH SCHOOL: Named to Class 2A Mid-State team by league coaches as a senior ... Only played two years of football in high school ... Also played basketball in high school.

Chase Hughes, OL, 6-3, 290, Springville (HS), AL. Enrolled at Ole Miss in January after graduating high school a semester early and will compete in spring drills ... HIGH SCHOOL: A SuperPrep All-Region pick and rated the No. 24 player in Alabama... Ranked the No. 16 center in the nation and the No. 27 player in Alabama by Rivals.com ... Rated the No. 20 senior in Alabama on The Birmingham News Super Senior list ... Ranked the No. 42 offensive guard in the nation by ESPN.com ... Listed as the No. 16 center in the country and the No. 21 player in Alabama by Scout.com ... Rated the No. 42 offensive guard in the nation by ESPN.com ... Participated in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic as a senior ... Coached in high school by Keith Maple.

New additions not announced as signees ...

Evan Swindall, C, 6-3, 285, La Fayette, Ga. (High) -- (2009 signee/delayed enrollment) --Earned first team class 3A All-State honors from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ... Rated the No. 19 center in the nation by Rivals.com ... Named to the Chattanooga Free-Press Dynamic Dozen team ... An All-North Georgia selection and All-Region 3-6A pick ... Earned All-Metro honors from The Birmingham News at Spain Park as a junior .... Also earned All-Region honors as a sophomore ... Coached in high school by his father Perry Swindall. 

Matt Hall, OL 6-10 - 300 - Russellville, Ark. (Russellville) -- (2008 Arkansas signee, redshirted in 2008, saw limited action in 2009.  Will redshirt in 2010 and have two years of eligibilty remaining) -- He was a 2007 all-state selection for Coach Jeff Holt at Russellville High School. He was scouted as the No. 4 overall prospect in the state of Arkansas and the No. 28 offensive lineman in the nation by Rivals.com. In the HawgSports.com Natural 21 rankings, he was rated no. 2 overall in the state of Arkansas. He was the No. 5 state prospect in the rankings by Hawgs Illustrated. He was ranked as the No. 64 offensive tackle in the nation and the No. 9 overall recruit in the state by Scout.com. He was also recruited by Ole Miss, Missouri and Louisville.

Post-signing day analysis: Quarterbacks | Tight Ends | Running backs | Wide receivers |Linebackers


 



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