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Ole Miss’ Greg Little slims down, catches up to college game

It didn’t take long for Greg Little to realize he wasn’t in high school anymore.

A former five-star recruit, Little quickly became part of Ole Miss’ offensive line rotation last season at left tackle. He spent his freshman season going up against the likes of Southeastern Conference sack leader Arden Key, Auburn rush specialist Carl Lawson and Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, who may end up being the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft later this month.

“College is a whole other monster of speed,” Little said. “Guys have been here for three or four years, have knowledge of the game and they know what to do. Playing up to their level was a big adjustment.”

He made a change this spring to help him better handle that heading into next season.

Little has lost 20 pounds off his 6-foot-6 frame that used to carry 340 pounds, which he believes has helped his footwork and lateral movement. It also helped him stay on the field for longer stretches this spring as the Rebels went at warp speed to install new coordinator Phil Longo’s offense.

“Last season, in five plays, I was kind of huffing and puffing and looking to the sideline for a sub,” Little said. “This year, I’m waving off guys and saying, ‘Hey, I’m good. I can breathe.’ I definitely enjoy the weight loss and definitely don’t want to gain it back.

“This offseason was a really big offseason for me of getting stronger, in shape and a better body.”

Little signed with Ole Miss out of Allen High (Texas) as the nation’s consensus No. 1 offensive tackle prospect in the 2016 class, inevitably drawing comparisons to former Ole Miss All-American Laremy Tunsil. Little immediately entered a competition with Rod Taylor at left tackle, one Taylor won coming out of fall camp, but the two split reps during games before Little started the last five.

It wasn’t easy for Little against some of the nation’s premier pass rushers, but going up against that kind of talent early has helped him get acclimated to life in the SEC.

“Definitely playing those guys week in and week out helped me be comfortable in starting last season,” Little said.

Little is again locked in a battle with Taylor, a rising senior, to be the starter next season with the two rotating throughout the spring and sharing reps in the Grove Bowl. Head coach Hugh Freeze said he’s comfortable with whomever the Rebels have on the edge.

“I don’t really care who runs with ones or two,” Freeze said. “Rod, Greg and (right tackle Alex) Givens, I think they’re all three really good.”

Little has gotten more challenges from some of his teammates. He spent most of the spring working against the speed of Marquis Haynes and the strength of Qaadir Sheppard, a transfer from Syracuse who will be eligible this fall, while rising junior Victor Evans tested Little with a mix of the two.

Little said it’s all helped him improve his game.

“All our defensive ends are pretty athletic,” Little said. “We have a mixture of guys where we’re not one-dimensional. I’m pretty excited about going against those guys every day.”