Houston Nutt Looking to Shore Up Ole Miss' O-Line

FastTimesintheSEC.comContributor IApril 2, 2009

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 2:  Head coach Houston Nutt of the Arkansas Razorbacks walks on the sidelines against the Florida Gators during the 2006 SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome December 2, 2006 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Offensive line play continues to be a key area for the Ole Miss football team, as the Rebels held their fourth practice of spring drills Wednesday afternoon.

The weather was sunny and warm for the second straight workout, which lasted over two-and-a-half hours in full pads. The forecast also called for change in the air, as linemen shifted positions while head coach Houston Nutt searched for the best combination across the offensive front.

"We’re moving some people around to create more competition," Nutt said. "We worry about our depth. As good as we are with depth on the defensive line, it’s the opposite on the offensive line. We have to hope and pray that there are no injuries. We were very fortunate last year."

Among the significant moves was senior Reid Neely lining up at left tackle. The Jackson, Mississippi, native has made all 18 of his career starts at left guard.

"He has length, good height, long arms, and he’s been around the block," Nutt said. "He’s really shown some versatility. If we played a game tonightthank goodness we don’tit would be Reid Neely at left tackle."

Nutt also saw positives in the other candidates competing for snaps on the line.

"With Bradley Sowell, we’ll keep pushing him. He got better today. He came out here fighting through a swollen ankle," Nutt said. "Brandon Green has been a good utility guy, from center to left guard to right guard. A.J. Hawkins is coming.

"Mark Jean-Louis has probably been the biggest surprise after the first couple days in pads, snapping very well, getting the calls, and he is very, very tough and strong."

Defensively, Nutt praised the progress of junior tackle Jerrell Powe, and noted that his weight from last year to this year "is not close." The former Parade All-American from Wayne County saw action in 12 of the 13 games in 2008.

“Jerrell Powe continues to excite us," Nutt said. "He’s lost a lot more weight. He’s a lot quicker. He’s a lot harder to block in these scrimmages. He’s penetrating and doing what we need him to do. He has a lot more confidence.

"(Last year) he just wasn’t ready after being away from the game. Now, after a year in the offseason weight room with Coach (Don) Decker, the weight loss and more knowledge of what we want done, it makes it a lot easier."

Ole Miss continues spring drills Friday at 3:50 p.m. CT, while Saturday's workout is set for 10 a.m.

Spring practices are open to the public.

Courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics