NOTEBOOK: ‘Progress,’ but no resolution for Tunsil

Published 12:00 pm Tuesday, September 29, 2015

During his weekly press conference Monday, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze gave an update on the status of junior offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil.

It was not news of Tunsil being able to play against No. 25 Florida on Saturday, but Freeze did shed a little light on the ongoing NCAA investigation.

“I asked the same question this morning (to the NCAA),” Freeze said. “Again, I have been told that a lot of progress has been made, and they are really trying to get him back on the field as soon as possible.”

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Tunsil has missed the first four games due to an ongoing process involving the NCAA and potential rules violations. It was reported recently by ESPN’s Chris Low that the extended use of a loaner car provided by Cannon Motors in Oxford was the infraction in question.

The third-ranked Rebels have had Tunsil listed as the No. 1 left tackle on their depth chart all four weeks of the early season, and this week is no different.

Tunsil will be immediately inserted into the lineup as soon as he is given the green light by the NCAA. Freeze said Tunsil has been working with the strength and conditioning team to make sure he stays in shape physically for when — or if — he is allowed to suit up and rejoin his teammates on Saturdays.

The concern of not having any reps of live action is concerning for Freeze, but with two freshmen staring on the offensive line and injuries piling up after the Alabama game, there is not much time for him to study up.

“There is no other way to keep him prepared besides to rely on his smarts, his strength and his athleticism and not him getting into practice,” Freeze said. “We are proceeding that we will not have him. He has been in our system long enough, and he is athletic enough that he should be able to handle coming back when it is time.”

Goal-line struggles
Although Ole Miss had trouble inside the red zone Saturday against Vanderbilt, the Rebels have faired well overall.

In their first four games, the Rebels have a 95-percent success rate (20 of 21) once inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Their perfect streak ended against the Commodores as they were 5 of 6 in the red zone.

Three of those visits ended in a touchdown, but it should have been four times. It took them seven plays to score from the 1 thanks to help from Vanderbilt, and the other time they went backwards, resulting in a field goal.

Florida’s red-zone defense has allowed 9 of 11 conversions (82 percent) by its opponents.

“Credit to Vanderbilt. It was very difficult to get past them,” Freeze said. “We had two bad calls schematically. That happens in games. We will have to continue to get better and be more efficient. We look good, but you have to get better every week. Teams in this league are exceptionally good in the red zone. It gets more and more difficult to score those touchdowns. That is no excuse.”

Cooper honored
The offensive line had a member of its group receive recognition by the Southeastern Conference office Monday.

Senior Fahn Cooper started for the four straight game in Tunsil’s place at left tackle and helped the Rebels pile up 475 yards against Vanderbilt, earning SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors.

Overall, Freeze was pleased with the play of his offensive front that featured more shifting around with Aaron Morris starting at left guard and freshman Javon Patterson moving to right guard for a portion of the game.

“I thought the effort was tremendous. The execution no so good,” Freeze said. “We have a ways to go. We made some mistakes, but Vanderbilt gave us some good looks. … We are playing a lot of young kids. I am just really proud of their effort, and I love what they bring to this team.”

Guards Justin Bell and Rod Taylor didn’t play Saturday as they nursed injuries, but Freeze said Bell will “try to go” against Florida while Taylor, who’s still struggling to regain the strength in his shoulder after tearing his labrum in a boxing match during fall camp, may play but would be limited.