Ole Miss is going to need to find a replacement on the offensive line.
Senior center Eli Johnson has decided to opt out of the 2020 Ole Miss football season, he announced on Twitter on Sunday evening.
"After much thought and consideration, I have decided to opt out for the 2020 season," Johnson's statement read. "I will be focusing on completing my Masters degree at Ole Miss in December. I will forever be grateful for my time here at Ole Miss. God Bless and Hot Toddy."
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit quite close for Johnson. His father, David, a media member covering the team, was hospitalized with a severe form of the virus earlier this summer. Despite a lengthy and grueling battle with the virus, David was released from the hospital over one month ago and is expected to fully recover.
From a football perspective, Johnson's departure opens a critical hole. A 6-foot-1, 300 pound center, Johnson started all 12 game one season ago for Ole Miss at center. He was expected to be the team's starter again.
There is some research that individuals with higher Body Mass Index (BMI), may be more adversely effected by the COVID-19 virus. With Johnson, and virtually any offensive lineman, being categorized as obese by the CDC under BMI measures, there's a chance this could have played into his decision.
However, there is consenting medical information on this front, as many medical professionals see individuals such as Johnson as healthy and active, despite their size.
Under current NCAA mandates, any player who choses to opt out of this season must have their scholarship honored by the institution. Johnson will also maintain his year of eligibility, if he choses to exercise that decision.