Preseason hype always gets pundits intrigued about which prospects to focus on entering the season. The hype can be created or destroyed within a single week, but it can also snowball throughout the entirety of a season or several seasons. As for Ole Miss left tackle Greg Little, his draft stock entering the season was as high as a top-10 selection, and he’s still in that category for many draft experts.
Little was a second-team All-American in 2017 and received similar praise this preseason with first-team All-America accolades from The Athletic and Sporting News. The 6-foot-6, 325-pound junior had his ups and downs last season, proving his inconsistencies throughout the year. Little is still falling into some of the same old habits early in the 2018 season.
In an impressive showing in the opener versus Texas Tech, Ole Miss put up 24 first quarter points en route to a 47-27 victory. Though an encouraging outcome and a dominating offensive attack that featured 546 total yards (336 passing, 210 rushing), the Rebels still faced some inconsistencies across the board. Little’s inconsistencies continued to show even during the seemingly flawless offensive attack.
Little has plenty of NFL traits to start the conversation of being one of the top offensive tackles. However, when measured against others in the same conversation, he is still lacking in many areas to be coveted as the OT1 in next year’s class. He has continually shown poor hand placement on multiple occasions, putting himself and the pocket in jeopardy.
From 2017 vs. Bama: Hand placement was still a present concern. 92 has complete control and throws Little aside to put pressure on the QB. pic.twitter.com/O8ULI6xTkT— Christian Page (@_ChristianPage) September 13, 2018
Little’s below average hand placement mostly stems from a late punch; he doesn’t always show a quick initial punch to gain an instant advantage on his matchup. In fact, it has become a trend that the edge rusher often gets the initial punch against Little. The Ole Miss product shows the deficiency of latching on to the outside part of the shoulder pads, giving the defender an easy task of disengaging. This was on display a few times versus Texas Tech.
My biggest concern for Little is his hand placement. Sure, on this play it isn’t a big deal but this is becoming habitual. His hands immediately shoot outside the shoulder pads which opens him up to be controlled. 90 for TT quickly sheds and throws Little out of the picture. pic.twitter.com/4YJU7l3d6m— Christian Page (@_ChristianPage) September 13, 2018
The high ranking of the junior tackle shouldn’t be summarily written off solely due to poor hand placement, though. His high billing doesn’t come as a fluke, as the 325-pound left tackle has incredible power that is really the foundation of his game. Little has the ability to forklift defenders when he uses the proper technique. He carries plenty of power and weight in his lower limbs to anchor against heavier edge defenders that favor a bull rush.
The part that makes Little such an intriguing prospect is that he oozes with potential but has yet to show vast improvements in technique. It’s gotten to the point where his higher pad level and lack of bend at his knees are going to have to be accepted because they’re not getting any better. It’s unfortunate he doesn’t show this bend or flexibility because it limits his powerful frame to just a portion off the strength he could exert.
Once Greg Little figures his hands out he has a chance to be an elite OT. Has great feet. Plenty of power. Still raw but ability is there. pic.twitter.com/R7As7Ge0c1— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) January 25, 2017
Little has the fun task of going up against Alabama this weekend along with Auburn and Mississippi State later in the year. All three could make cases to be the best defensive lines in college football. Little held his own versus the Tide last season, keeping a clean pocket and sustaining his blocks in both the running and passing game.
Saturday, Little’s draft stock could skyrocket, remain the same for those that think highly of him, or plummet because his inconsistencies will become more exposed due to the intensity and success of the Alabama defensive line. If he mirrors his 2017 performance against the Tide, he will be just fine and should receive yet more first round praise.
Alabama at Ole Miss (7 p.m. ET on ESPN)