Ole Miss is off to a 5-1 start, beat Alabama and is ranked No. 13 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, and it will be much more stout on the offensive line for the season's stretch run.
According to Ole Miss football's official website, the NCAA notified the school Monday that star left tackle Laremy Tunsil received a seven-game suspension and is eligible to return on Oct. 24 for the showdown against Texas A&M. The Rebels have already played six games, which means Tunsil will be back in his spot up front after Saturday’s contest against Memphis.
Ole Miss withheld Tunsil for the first six games of the season during the NCAA’s investigation into improper benefits. The team’s website described why Tunsil was ultimately suspended:
It was determined by the NCAA that Tunsil received impermissible extra benefits that included the use of three separate loaner vehicles over a sixth-month period without payment, a four-month interest-free promissory note on a $3,000 down payment for purchasing a used vehicle, two nights of lodging at a local home, an airline ticket purchased by a friend of a teammate, and one day use of a rental vehicle. In addition, it was determined that Tunsil was not completely forthcoming when initially questioned by NCAA investigators regarding the loaner vehicles. He later corrected his account and since apologized.
In addition to the suspension, Tunsil must pay back the value of the benefits to a charity, make the down payment on the vehicle and perform community service.
Tunsil released a statement, per the team’s website:
I take full responsibility for the mistakes I made and want to thank everyone for their continued support. I want to apologize to my teammates, coaches and the entire Ole Miss family for how my choices affected our program. This was a learning experience, and I'm looking forward to being back on the field with my team and redeeming myself. The last 10 months have been a physical and mental battle for me, but I love playing this game more than anything else. I want to be here for my teammates who are depending on me to finish what we started together.
The impending return of the left tackle is a major boost for Ole Miss’ SEC championship aspirations.
Dane Brugler of CBS Sports projected Tunsil as the fourth pick in the upcoming draft, and the 6’5”, 305-pound tackle is a physical force as a run-blocker and clears lanes for the team’s playmakers. He is also fairly athletic for his size and able to move laterally as a pass protector.
The timing of Tunsil’s return is ideal for the Rebels as well. They will face Texas A&M, Auburn, Arkansas, LSU and their archrival, Mississippi State, with Tunsil back up front, which will help the offense survive the brutal physicality the SEC brings every week.
Ole Miss is already fifth in the nation with 46.8 points per game without Tunsil. Those numbers may get even better with the star tackle clearing the way up front.