OXFORD – Earning the starting left tackle job hasn’t been a shock to Jayden Williams. He knows the sort of work he's put in.
Williams, a redshirt freshman at Ole Miss, started the first three games of the 2022 campaign for the undefeated Rebels (3-0). He has been the blindside protector for sophomore quarterbacks Jaxson Dart and Luke Altmyer, who combined have taken two sacks the entire season behind a largely veteran offensive line.
Coming into the season, however, the Rebels were set to have a slightly different looking front five — last year’s left tackle, senior Nick Broeker, would slide down to guard. Junior Caleb Warren would man the center spot, sophomore Eli Acker the other guard spot, and junior tackle Jeremy James would move from the right side to the left. Western Kentucky transfer Mason Brooks would set up at right tackle, and Ole Miss would have a battle-tested, veteran group.
But Williams stated his case in the spring and fall, and the Rebels are reaping the benefits.
“Me personally, I’m not surprised. I expect the most out of myself. I competed for it. And I felt like I competed enough to get to this spot. And it just happened to work that way during the fall, fall camp,” Williams said. “Just playing more confident. When I came back from my rehab (from a shoulder injury) last year, I was game planning versus the other teams instead of learning the playbook and actually getting comfortable in it.
“And in spring, I got more comfortable in it, and I think that allowed me to play better. And, going into fall camp, I think that was the biggest thing for me. And I played my best football that I have since I’ve been here.”
Williams said he has leaned on the veteran members of the offensive line for guidance. He mentioned Broeker, in particular, as he has plenty of experience at left tackle. So far, the results have gotten better with each week.
Last week, Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin heaped praise on Williams in terms of the strides he’s made.
“He’s just had a great camp,” Kiffin said. “(He) got hurt in that first game and so hasn’t played probably as well as he would have otherwise, so he’s been a little up and down through two games since that injury. But he’s been a great surprise, because he had such an awesome offseason that he changed himself physically a lot.”