Some of the nation’s top offensive linemen for the 2013 signing class signed on with the Ole Miss Rebels earlier this month, giving offensive line coach Matt Luke and Hugh Freeze a great feeling for the future.
While signing standouts like Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson help anchor the future, the Rebels still need another class of linemen to offset the loss of six seniors after the 2013 season.
Mississippi produced several Division I linemen this past class, with two, Canton’s Daronte Bouldin and Byhalia’s Davion Johnson, signing on to play at Ole Miss.
The Rebels already have one verbal pledge from a lineman in the state in DeSoto Central’s Tyler Putnam (6-foot-5, 260-pounds) and are in hot pursuit of the state’s top line prospect, Callaway’s Rod Taylor (6-4, 300).
Putnam committed to Ole Miss Feb. 15, giving the Rebels their fifth commitment towards the 2014 class and the fourth from the state of Mississippi. (Monday, Ole Miss picked up its sixth commitment from Callaway wide receiver Dayall Harris.)
Putnam’s coach, Matt Wallace, said his biggest attribute is his footwork.
“That’s the biggest thing he’s got going for him. He’s got tremendous footwork and I think a lot of that has to come from the basketball court. He’s an athlete that just happens to be 6-5, 265 but he keeps his feet in the right places,” Wallace said. “He’s a big body and very coachable. I think that’s the first thing people notice when we’re pass blocking, they watch how quick he can move back and stay in position. On that left side, that blind side of the quarterback, it’s so important to be able to get a guy that can pass block like that and he’s that guy.”
Wallace said that Putnam has always been a basketball player even though he played some football when he was much younger.
“He came out for football since he was playing Pee Wee when he was a sophomore but I knew as a sophomore that he had a special talent,” Wallace said. “He’s raw and strength wise, he’s really got to grow in that weight room, but as far as his skills and the footwork, you could tell right away he was going to be an athlete and do what colleges wanted him to do.”
A basketball background has kept Putnam in shape, Wallace said, and kept him looking like the long, lean tackle Freeze and Luke are ideally wanting to sign.
“He plays AAU basketball during the summer time and they’ll play six or seven games in a weekend so it’s hard to keep a lot of weight on him. He’s running, stays in shape, stays in condition which I know that’s what Coach Freeze likes,” Wallace said. “We do the same (offense) that they do. It’s mirrored to what Coach Freeze is doing at Ole Miss. It’s scary to see how similar we are.”
Wallace added that Putnam has gone to camps at Notre Dame and Auburn and both coaching staffs really liked what they saw. Putnam does have an offer from Auburn, as well as Arkansas, Louisiana-Monroe, Duke and Mississippi State.
“We went to the Auburn camp and they offered him on the spot and of course State and Ole Miss pretty much offered him on sight at camp. Anytime you see a guy that big and that athletic and can move like he does, it’s impressive and they feel like they can mold this guy into anything we need him to be,” Wallace said. “He’s really an outstanding young man. He’s an A, B student. He’s a great kid and his mom and dad are very involved. He’s actually a very shy kid. Getting him to talk with all these coaches coming to talk to him, I kept telling that he had to talk to them. He would just put his head down and say yes sir, no sir. I could never get him to talk but he’s getting better. He’s a good football player and an even better young man.”
Taylor, who is rated as the state’s top lineman and the nation’s No. 2 guard, is also a basketball player.
He is currently a key reserve for the No. 1 ranked Callaway Chargers, who defeated Oxford and Provine this past weekend to win the 5A North Half title.
Last year’s star-studded signing class caught the eye of Taylor, who is one of four Chargers that have an Ole Miss offer.
“Ole Miss is good, they have a lot of good recruits and top players that they signed. I’m liking the school,” said Taylor, who added he was impressed with Freeze’s ability to sign that many top players. “I’ve been up (to Oxford) four times. Ole Miss is a good offer, I just don’t know where I want to go yet.”
The main focus for Taylor right now is helping Callaway earn a third straight basketball championship. Taylor said playing more basketball this year has really helped his footwork. Following the basketball season, Taylor will return to football related drills.
“I never workout with the big guys, I guard the little guys so I can get my footwork better. After basketball, I’m working out,” said Taylor, who said he liked to play like Alabama’s Chance Warmack. “That’s my boy. I’m a better run blocker. My pass protection is good too.”
Harris to Rebels
Harris (6-3, 185) just received a scholarship offer from Ole Miss this past Friday, hours before Callaway took on Oxford in basketball. He is good friends with safety Ronald Walker, who is also committed to play for the Rebels.
As a junior, Harris led Callaway with 31 receptions for 490 yards and four touchdowns.