Sims Stepping Up In Rawlings' Absence
Sept. 19, 2017

By Brian Scott Rippee,

Oxford, Miss - The epicenter of Ole Miss' offensive line was taken away from the team on Saturday night when Sean Rawlings went down with an ankle sprain. His absence was noticeable almost immediately as the Rebel offensive line looked a little shook and out of rhythm for the rest of the night in the their 27-16 loss to Cal.

Now, a well-timed bye week will give them a few extra days to regroup and conjure up a plan to replace arguably their most important piece on the line. 

"It is kind of handy week to have a bye week to be honest," offensive line coach Jack Bicknell said. "This is a week we can really look at some different combinations, look at who could be playing center. There is a possibility Sean could be back I guess. I don't know percentage that is. It is really good to have someone ready to go anyways."

Of the combinations Bicknell, Matt Luke and the Rebel coaching staff are contemplating, Jordan Sims and Javon Patterson will likely be an element in all of them. Patterson stepped in and admirably finished out the game at center last Saturday. Sims took reps at center during Tuesday's practice.

"It feels pretty comfortable," Sims said. "During film I am always listening to coach for different calls at almost every position. You never know what may happen."

Both players have spent most of their careers at guard. Patterson does have three starts at center stemming from the 2016 season. Both players will be relied on heavily going forward for Ole Miss, which is no different than before. It is just a matter of where

"Javon has had more center work so far, so we are going to push more work on Jordan and see how we draw there," Bicknell said.

Bicknell thinks they'll make a decision on who will play center by the end of this week so things can be a little more stable next week.

Regardless of how it shakes out, the Rebels depth at offensive line is eroding. Backup center Eli Johnson went down with a torn ACL against UT-Martin and now Rawlings will be on the shelf for a little bit. Rawlings had surgery on Monday and his status for the Alabama game is up in the air. 

True freshman Ben Brown is a guy that will slide up the depth chart in some capacity as a result of this. He's naturally a guard but will run some with the second-team at center. 

"That's been a slower transition," Bicknell said. "I think he's going to be a great player and a great center. It is one thing to get snaps after practice. Like today was his first day with the second-team center. It's another transition to go play Alabama on ESPN primetime. Those other guys have been there before."

Sims has been dealing with a nagging ankle injury of his own, but said he was fully healthy. He was told in fall camp he would be an emergency center and for the last two weeks he has seen more reps there. He knows the increased burden he's preparing to take on.

"It just comes with practice and getting reps with Shea," Sims said. "It will get better."

Bicknell said redshirt freshman Royce Newman is a guy they can go to if the team is in a pinch. Mostly, this week will be about trying different combinations and hopefully getting healthy.

"We have some interchangible parts there," Bicknell said. "We will just have to see how it goes."






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