Ole Miss' offensive line is about to get a rather large boost.
The school announced late Monday that star left tackle Laremy Tunsil has received a seven-game suspension from the NCAA. Already six games into the season, the news means the junior will sit out Saturday's game at Memphis but will be back for the Rebels' run of SEC games starting with Texas A&M on Oct. 24.
"The University initially withheld Tunsil from competition at the start of the season as both the NCAA and the University examined several alleged improper benefits," Ole Miss said in a release. "During the course of the process, it was determined by the NCAA that Tunsil received impermissible extra benefits that included the use of three separate loaner vehicles over a sixth-month period without payment, a four-month interest-free promissory note on a $3,000 down payment for purchasing a used vehicle, two nights of lodging at a local home, an airline ticket purchased by a friend of a teammate, and one day use of a rental vehicle. In addition, it was determined that Tunsil was not completely forthcoming when initially questioned by NCAA investigators regarding the loaner vehicles. He later corrected his account and since apologized.
"As part of his reinstatement conditions, the NCAA imposed a seven-game suspension, ordered Tunsil to pay the value of the extra benefits to a charity, perform community service, and he will also make the vehicle down payment."
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Tunsil, who is projected as a potential top five pick in the 2016 NFL draft also released a statement:
"I take full responsibility for the mistakes I made and want to thank everyone for their continued support. I want to apologize to my teammates, coaches and the entire Ole Miss family for how my choices affected our program. This was a learning experience, and I'm looking forward to being back on the field with my team and redeeming myself. The last 10 months have been a physical and mental battle for me, but I love playing this game more than anything else. I want to be here for my teammates who are depending on me to finish what we started together."
During his regularly scheduled Monday press conference, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said the school was hopeful to receive a ruling soon.
"We have been supportive of Laremy throughout this process, and we are thankful he can return to competition starting with the Texas A&M game," Freeze said in a statement Monday night. "More important than his football ability is his character, and I am confident that Laremy will grow from this experience and continue to be a positive member of the University and our football team."
Tunsil's absence triggered a ripple effect throughout the Rebels' already thin offensive line.
Without Tunsil, the Rebels have been playing Fahn Cooper, originally penciled in as the starter at right tackle, at left tackle. In Coopers' place have been a rotating door of underclassmen.
Tunsil's return also leads to a potential showdown between him and Aggies pass-rushing extraordinaire, Myles Garrett.
The 6-foot-5, 262-pound sophomore is currently fourth in the nation with 7.5 sacks. He's also fifth on the Aggies with 25 total tackles.
Ole Miss, by comparison, has surrendered 10 sacks.