Rebel Roll Call: Offensive machine relies on ‘big uglies’

Posted on Aug 24 2018 - 6:00am by Josh Gollihar

Rebel fans can expect more of the same from Phil Longo’s offense this year and more shootouts in which Ole Miss will need to rely on scoring more than 40 points. The offense will be high-octane and up-tempo. Records are in danger. But the gaudy numbers should not overshadow the spine of the offense. The “big uglies” are going to power the machine.

Offensive lineman Greg Little throws his hands up to pump up the crowd after a touchdown during the 2016 season. File photo by Cameron Brooks

The engine to the Rebel offense is the offensive line. As a former center and O-line coach, head coach Matt Luke’s specialty is O-line, and the talent that the starting five possess is special. Offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. returns 103 career starts to his line.

“(Coach Luke is) a great O-line coach, and I can see he misses coaching the O-line,” left tackle Greg Little said. “He just loves coming in here and spending time with us. He’s still an O-lineman at heart.”

The left side of the O-line is littered with nationally recognized talent. Little, a junior, has protected Ole Miss quarterbacks’ blind sides during every game he has played since he arrived with the 2016 recruiting class. The top-5 recruit has played his way into consideration as one of the first few offensive tackles picked in the 2019 NFL Draft. Little’s athleticism, size and experience will make him attractive to NFL scouts.

“It’s going to be kind of a new identity from the team we had (before Luke was promoted to head coach),” Little said. “Coach Luke is really focused on being a very tough football team.”

Once again, Javon Patterson will fill the left guard position. Patterson was one of the eligible players to transfer as a result of the NCAA investigation of the Ole Miss football program, but he quickly denounced any and all transfer talk. He’ll finish the job he came to do at Ole Miss. Patterson is a true leader, not only for the offense but for the team as a whole. He finds himself on the Wuerffel Trophy watch list, an award that honors the player that excels on the field, in the classroom and in the community.

Head Coach Matt Luke walks to Javon Patterson, 79, to give him a hug before the game against Alabama this past season. File photo by Marlee Crawford

Center Sean Rawlings is entering his fourth season as an Ole Miss Rebel. The senior started in all but one game (because of injury) during the 2017 season. His play as the signal-caller for the O-line landed him on the Rimington Trophy watch list, an award denoting the top center in the country. The trio of Little, Patterson and Rawlings will be a force whose talent and ability are matched by few.

Former right guard Alex Givens is the fourth returning starter for Coach Bicknell. Givens will slide outside to the right tackle position to replace NFL draftee Rod Taylor.