It’s the moment Ole Miss fans have been waiting for.
Star left tackle Laremy Tunsil will finally be back on the field against Texas A&M on Saturday after serving a seven-game NCAA suspension for improper benefits.
Tunsil, who is considered to be a top-five NFL draft pick if he declares after the season, will undoubtedly give the Rebels a lift. And the timing couldn’t have been much better for Ole Miss’ depleted offensive line, as Tunsil will be around to help it fend off Aggies’ defensive end Myles Garrett. (How fun is that matchup going to be to watch, by the way?)
So Ole Miss will be significantly better than it has been at left tackle, but Tunsil does more than just improve one position. His return causes a domino effect for the Rebels that really improves the entire unit as a whole.
Senior Fahn Cooper has done an adequate job at left tackle, but he’s not an elite talent. So with Tunsil back, Cooper will move to right tackle, and that is a position where he feels more comfortable. Redshirt freshman Sean Rawlings had been manning things at right tackle, but having Cooper, a veteran, over there is definitely an upgrade.
And that’s no slight against Rawlings. He’s a young, inexperienced player who is probably better served playing at center or guard. He was thrown into the fire and showed some promise, and that experience will be invaluable moving forward.
Pairing true freshman Javon Patterson at left guard right beside Tunsil can give Ole Miss a place to go to in those short-yardage situations that have been the Rebels’ Achilles heel.
Overall, things will also improve from a psyche standpoint.
Let’s be real. Ole Miss, whether it’s the fans, coaches, players or whoever, has had no confidence in this unit this season. But now, you throw in a top player at left tackle, pair him with a guy who will be on the SEC all-freshman team at left guard, and suddenly it helps solidify a ground game that was completely absent in losses to Memphis and Florida.
It should also make quarterback Chad Kelly rest a little easier on Saturday knowing his left side will be taken care of the majority of the time.
So when it’s all said and done, every spot up front improves with Tunsil back in the lineup.
Now, will that mean that the Rebels can put together a decent rushing attack down the stretch? The answer is probably no. But it should improve things a bit, and in pass protection, it should do wonders.