In The Trenches

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Pierce Burton, Evan Swindall and Emmanuel McCray
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM
Pierce Burton, Evan Swindall and Emmanuel McCray
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM

Sept. 11, 2013

By Lauren McMillin
Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations

All eyes are on the center as he snaps the ball, the quarterback as he throws the pass, and finally, on the wide receiver as he makes the catch and gets a first down.   On the next play, everyone is watching the running back as he weaves his way through bodies and takes off toward the goal line.  What goes virtually unnoticed, however, are the players that make all of this possible.  They are the offensive line, and collectively, they provide the shield that allows great plays to happen.

Serving as the cornerstone of the team, the offensive line sets the foundation for how things will unfold, ultimately deciding how the chains will move. Of the five players that form the offensive line, three of the key positions include the right tackle, the left tackle and the center.  Filled by returning seniors Pierce Burton, Emmanuel McCray and Evan Swindall, these positions will raise the bar this season for the Rebels' offense, leading the team to victory one play at a time.

With football season finally underway, the Rebels are ready to unveil their progress. According to Swindall, a center from LaFayette, Ga., the anticipation is noticeably more palpable in year two under head coach Hugh Freeze.  

"I think we're more excited about this year," Swindall said. "We're a little more comfortable with the offense, and I think the fans are more excited about this year, too. We won seven games last year, and I think we're all excited to see what we can do this year."

After a full year under Coach Freeze, the Rebels have adjusted to their new playing style and are making tremendous improvements on all levels, not just on the field.  

"It's a huge difference (from last year)," said Burton, a right tackle from Sacramento, Calif.  "There's more accountability... everything is just better all around, whether it's the plays, whether it's guys hanging out off the field. Just across the board, everything is more fine-tuned."

The ability to implement plays and to push forward is necessary with the Rebels' high-speed offense, a style that the offensive line has grown to know and understand.  According to McCray, a left tackle from Jackson, adjusting to an increased tempo has made a drastic impact on the way the offensive line functions.  

"We've gotten in even better shape because of the tempo that we play," he said. "We understood that we had to get in better shape and get a better understanding to memorize the plays. As fast as we go, we don't have time to think. That's the biggest change."

Moving at a rapid pace has its challenges, but it can also take a toll on the opposing defense, giving the offensive line an advantage.  

"It's pretty hard, initially, but it has its perks," McCray said. "Once you see the defense we're going against, they're gassed, and we have this second wind because we're used to this speed. It definitely helps in the second half of the game, building confidence, and as an offensive unit, we just forge on and dominate."

With most of the action occurring among the positions that actually get to touch the football, spectators may not always notice how important and strategic the offensive linemen actually are.

"A lot of times the defense is moving," Burton said. "We've got to change our blocking scheme on the fly, and sometimes we don't even have time to talk about it. Sometimes we just have to roll with it, so everyone across the board has to have an understanding of what everyone on the offensive line is doing.  I think a lot of people don't realize that."

As long as the offensive linemen understand their job on the team, that's all that truly matters. "We're used to being not seen," McCray said. "We're just the guys that don't touch the ball and just block. As long as our team knows and our coaches know that we're the foundation of the offense as to how they roll, then we're fine with that."

The strength and the ability of the offensive line are vital to the overall success of a team. What sets the Rebels' offensive line apart goes beyond the basics of being able to block. According to Swindall, the secret is compatibility.  

"We work well together, we have chemistry and we know the calls," he said.

As a line made mostly of returning seniors, the experience that they've had playing together is a contributing factor, as well.  

"I would say the strongest part of the offensive line is we've all played together, and we all know what we're doing," Burton said. "Offensive line isn't five pennies. It's a nickel. That's kind of cliché, but we all have to know what we're doing and work together. Four of the five starters are back, so we really have a good understanding of playing next to each other."

As seniors on this up and coming Rebel team, these linemen have shifted into a position of leadership, as well.  

"I try to lead by example as much as I can," Burton said. "Our offensive line, I think some of the younger guys have been looking to us seniors, and it's become our job to kind of pass the torch to them. It's our job to show the freshmen how it's done and how to do things. I think we're doing a pretty good job of doing that."

As the season continues, these three seniors and their fellow offensive linemen will continue to strive for success, guiding the Rebels' offense with every snap, every block, every play.  And as far as what the season has in store for the Rebel Nation, Burton sums it up perfectly: "Expect great things."

Ole Miss Gear
    Facebook
    Twitter
    • Loading Tweets...
      1 second ago
    Blog
    • Wallace Looks to Make More History

      Thursday, December 18, 2014 - Football

      Senior quarterback Bo Wallace, like his head coach, stepped into a program that had won just two games in 2011 and had lost 14 straight games.  Three years later, Wallace helped lead the ninth-ranked Rebels to their first nine-win regular... read more

    • Rebels Ink Nation's Top JUCO Quarterback

      Wednesday, December 17, 2014 - Football

      Official welcome to Chad Kelly, the No. 1 JUCO QB in the country from national champion East Mississippi CC. #HottyToddy-- Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) December 17, 2014 Just Sent My LOI In To The University Of Mississippi!!! Feel's Good To... read more

    • Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Dec. 8-14, 2014)

      Monday, December 15, 2014 - Athletics

      Ole Miss Athletics Week in ReviewDec. 8-14, 2014Women's Basketball- The Ole Miss women's basketball team rebounded with a 88-48 win over South Alabama on Sunday. The win was the first after back-to-back losses for the Rebels for the first time... read more

    • Recapping Monday's Media Opportunities

      Monday, December 15, 2014 - Football

      Ole Miss Details Stadium Expansion Plans Ole Miss unveiled the master plan for Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, which includes two phases of renovation and expansion. Scheduled for completion by the start of the 2016 season, the expansion will bring the seating capacity... read more

    • Observations from the Best Seat in the House -- Dec. 14

      Sunday, December 14, 2014 - Athletics

      With final exam week on the Ole Miss campus, there was not much game action, but there's still plenty to talk about, as Ole Miss finalized salary increases for head football coach Hugh Freeze and his staff, and the football... read more

    • VIDEO: Ole Miss Volleyball Season Highlight

      Friday, December 12, 2014 - Volleyball

      read more

    • VIDEO: Ole Miss Football 2014 Season Highlight

      Tuesday, December 9, 2014 - Football

      Ole Miss Football 2014 Season Highlight from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.... read more

    • Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Dec. 1-7, 2014)

      Monday, December 8, 2014 - Athletics

      Ole Miss Athletics Week in ReviewDec. 1-7, 2014Football- No. 9 Ole Miss accepted an invitation to play in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, where they will face No. 6 TCU on Dec. 31 in Atlanta's Georgia Dime.- Ole Miss is making... read more

    • Testing One, Two, Three

      Monday, December 8, 2014 - Academics

      While the Rebels have enjoyed a solid fall on the fields and courts and look forward to the upcoming Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and more basketball games, all student-athletes are busy this week proving they are champions in the classroom... read more

    • Observations from the Best Seat in the House -- Dec. 7

      Sunday, December 7, 2014 - Athletics

      In the early part of the week, Athletics Director Ross Bjork and head football coach Hugh Freeze reached an agreement on a new contract. In the late part of the week, the Rebels learned their postseason bowl destination. Here are... read more

    • The Season: Ole Miss Football Episode 13

      Wednesday, December 3, 2014 - Men's Basketball

      The Season: Ole Miss Football - Episode 13 - MSU (2014) from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.... read more

    • Rebels Finding a Rhythm after Trip to Florida

      Tuesday, December 2, 2014 -

      Ole Miss continued its strong bounce-back from a season-opening loss to Charleston Southern, improving to 5-1 on the season and knocking off two previously unbeaten opponents in No. 23 Creighton and Cincinnati to capture the inaugural Emerald Coast Classic. "We... read more

    • Bjork, Freeze Reach Agreement on New Contract

      Tuesday, December 2, 2014 - Football

      Athletics Director Ross Bjork and head football coach Hugh Freeze reached an agreement on a new contract, they both announced on Twitter early Tuesday morning. Terms will be released as they are finalized and are expected in the coming days.... read more

    • Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (No. 24-30, 2014)

      Monday, December 1, 2014 - Athletics

      Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review Nov. 24-30, 2014Football- No. 18 Ole Miss won the annual "Egg Bowl" rivalry 31-17 over No. 4 Mississippi State in front of another sold-out crowd at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday afternoon.- The Rebels finish the... read more

    • Observations from the Best Seat in the House -- Nov. 30

      Sunday, November 30, 2014 - Athletics

      Ole Miss collected a lot of hardware over the weekend, as the football team reclaimed the Egg Bowl trophy and the men's and women's basketball returned home with regular-season tournament championship. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week... read more