OXFORD — Micah Pettus wanted to play. So he did something about it.
The Ole Miss redshirt freshman offensive tackle from Madison, Alabama, was a four-star recruit in the 2021 class but did not play a single snap as a true freshman behind an offensive line that was set at the tackle spots with Nick Broeker and Jeremy James.
That wasn’t ideal for Pettus. He was too competitive for that to sit well with him. So he transformed his body and mind.
Pettus was listed at 6-foot-6, 340 pounds last season. He’s at 6-foot-7 and 360 pounds now. In addition to changing his body, he began putting in additional work to reach the point he needed to in order to get on the field.
“Probably as big of a development as we’ve been around over a year. From a guy who came here, redshirted, looked a long way away from playing a year ago. I asked him this summer when he was doing so much better early in camp, he looked so much better. He said, like a lot of these kids, it was the first time in his life not playing and not traveling,” Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin said. “He just reflected on all of his habits and his work ethic and just completely changed himself mentally and physically. It’s awesome to see.”
Pettus saw time in a reserve role in each of the first four games of 2022 but, due in part to an injury to junior center Caleb Warren that shifted the entire offensive line, got the first start of his career last weekend against Kentucky.
To say Pettus thrived would be an understatement — starting at right tackle against a top-10 Wildcats team with a premier defense, he was named the Southeastern Conference offensive lineman of the week and held a 94 percent grade with 10 knockdowns and no pressures allowed, according to the SEC.
Kiffin said he isn’t sure how the lineman awards are chosen but that “they got that right” with Pettus.
“I’m really competitive, and they brought in guys to sit there and play. I just decided, what I was doing wasn’t enough in order to get better,” Pettus said. “I took some advice from guys like Caleb Warren and Broeker and Jeremy James, and how they got on the field early. So I started working out, eating better, extra stuff outside of what is required of us.”
Pettus’ emergence, along with a breakout year for fellow redshirt tackle Jayden Williams, has given the Rebels much-needed depth up front. Broeker, James and senior Mason Brooks can play both guard and tackle, while sophomore Eli Acker and Warren can play both guard and center. Being able to rotate the offensive line during games is ideal, Kiffin said, as defenses are switching fresh players in and out throughout games in order to combat fast-paced teams like Ole Miss.
“Ideally, we’d really like to get more than five. The game has changed. This is just me, I’ve said it now for two years, I think the defenses have figured out the rotations up front to play tempo teams. They play their starting players 50-60 percent of the game, and they rotate,” Kiffin said. “ … When we’re playing play 75, play 80, at 300-some pounds, and the guy I’m playing against is on play 40. I think there’s something to that, and I think it shows on the tape up front, how the end of the game up there looks versus the beginning of the game.”
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