As the days without football linger on, RebelGrove.com will break down Ole Miss' 15 most important players heading into 2012. A new spot will be revealed each weekday leading up to the first practice.
At times, we'll cheat and combine a couple names into one spot, but it's our list, so we'll do what we want. The list focuses just on the upcoming season - not future career performance.
We continue the countdown with a newcomer that will play a huge role along the Rebels' offensive line this fall.
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Name: Pierce Burton
Hometown: Sacramento, Calif.
Position: Offensive Lineman
Career Stats: N/A
2011 Stats: N/A
On Wednesday, while highlighting I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, we mentioned Ole Miss' lackluster statistics when it came to running the football last season. The Rebels were 10th in the Southeastern Conference in rushing per game and 11th in rushing yards per attempt. Those stats remain applicable in today's portion of the countdown, but it's also about protecting the quarterback and allowing Bo Wallace and/or Barry Brunetti time to operate in the pocket. Pierce Burton was recruited and signed to play immediately, and he'll have that chance this fall at right tackle.
Burton joined the team in January and went through spring practice. He performed well, especially considering he was so new to the program and the scheme. He's firmly established at the top of the depth chart. During the spring, head coach Hugh Freeze called Burton and Aaron Morris his two "most naturally gifted tackles" on the roster.
Burton started his college career at San Jose State before transferring for one season to City College of San Francisco - the same junior college home as former Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. Burton helped CCSF to a 12-0 record and a California state championship. He was heavily courted by Ole Miss, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Texas Tech and West Virginia. He woke up the morning of National Signing Day expecting to sign with Florida but couldn't get Ole Miss out of his mind. Hours later, he inked with the Rebels.
"Once I decided I wanted to commit to Ole Miss, I felt real excited," Burton said back in December. "I just saw things I could do, the team could do so I went with it. It was pretty difficult but I was real happy with my decision."
Burton arrived to campus expecting to play left tackle but quickly found a home on the right side. He led for a starting spot throughout camp.
Burton has experience and brings maturity and ability to Ole Miss' offensive line. The heralded recruit will be counted on immediately and absolutely looks the part of an SEC tackle. Behind Burton on the depth chart is Patrick Junen, a versatile junior who can play any position on the offensive line and has 11 career starts - the most of any tackle on the depth chart.
Unless you count A.J. Hawkins as the reserve center, right tackle has the most talented depth on the offensive line depth chart with Burton and Junen. However, Junen could slide elsewhere if there are injuries, and Burton has a higher ceiling and is the player Ole Miss needs to take the majority of the snaps this season. Signing Burton was a huge coup for Freeze last winter, and he'll undoubtedly strengthen the team this fall.
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