Rawlings Anchoring Veteran Offensive Line Unit
Aug. 26, 2017

By Brian Scott Rippee, OleMissSports.com 

Oxford, Miss. - Sean Rawlings vividly remembers being thrown into the fire his redshirt freshman year. He was part of a thin, injured offensive line unit and was called upon to start seven games at right tackle in 2015.

This season, OIe Miss will have the flexibility to play eight or nine guys on the offensive line in a game. The depth is a welcomed cushion to help soften the blow of a potential injury.

“It’s a huge difference,” Rawlings said. “I remember my freshman year there were some guys hurt, but there were five guys tops that could play in a game. This year it is such a big difference having that depth.”

It will also help keep them fresh late in games, something that is particularly vital given the pace of Phil Longo’s offense.

“This offensive is unbelievable,” Rawlings said. “We have so many different options. Basically every play is a run-pass option. That is nice to have. Coach Bicknell has made it a point to finish all the way through a play, and that creates more yardage on runs and that has what we have been focusing on in the run game.”

Rawlings is the center for a now veteran starting offensive line group that has the invaluable advantage of having played together for a year or two. It’s made them a more cohesive unit. In fact, the newest addition to the offensive line group is coach Jack Biknell, who was hired just three days before fall camp began.

“It has obviously been a whirlwind experience for me because I got here three days before,” Bicknell said. “So having to learn the offense in three days and then actually going to teach it and everything the defense can throw at you. It has been quite an experience for me just trying to stay one step ahead of the game because you have one installation and then the next and the next. Luckily we have a bunch of guys who have played before and understand what it takes to work well together.



“I think as much of our success has been due to that fact. It is not their first rodeo, so to speak. Those guys have played some football.”

Bicknell says he finds himself asking veteran guys like Rawlings various questions throughout the course of a practice as he gets used to this new system. Bicknell is a guy that has 31 years of experience and seven in the NFL. Rawlings thinks that Bicknell has brought a mindset of being more physical and emphasizes driving guys off of the ball.

“You obviously want to dominate people off of the ball and finish the block,” Rawlings said. “That creates holes when you finish guys and drive them off of the ball. We want to be as dominant as we can be.”

Of all the stops in Bicknell’s career, he says he hasn’t been to many places where he has the luxury of playing eight or nine guys in game. He sees the communication amongst this experienced group and it reminds him of some other places he has been.

“I happened to be with the Giants for a year when that group had six, seven or eight years together. It is all the little adjustments you have to go there,” Bicknell said. “We are talking inches sometimes like maybe a step here or a little bit quicker on a twist. If you’ve played together you have an understanding of what that is all about. You’ve also sort of seen it all after a year together.”

Royce Newman and Ben Brown were the two guys Bicknell alluded to being the next two young players they are trying to develop into the rotation this year. Newman is a redshirt freshman and Brown is a true freshman.

“Those are two guys that come to mind that we are trying to come along quickly and just continue to get them better,” Bicknell said. “Royce might be a little bit ahead of Ben because Ben just got here, but he is showing promise. As the year goes on, he may become the ninth.”

Bicknell is still adjusting to his new home, but has the experience of guys like Rawlings helping him as well as number of different guys he can play in a game this season, and it’s made for a much smoother transition.

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