After Signing Day: Running backs

Position with the Rebels after signing day …

This was an interesting group in 2013 to say the least. There was production from four different players at various times, but no single back leaped up and said “I’m the man.”

There were also times when the Ole Miss run game sputtered, and that was evident in the play of the overall offense.

Through it all the Rebels never found the power back to run through initial contact and be the short-yardage guy. That was an issue Hugh Freeze tried to address by using defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche in the backfield in the regular season finale at Mississippi State.

The power back issue should be improved this year with the coming of junior college transfer Akeem Judd. Listed by Ole Miss at 6-0, 215, Judd would be 26 pounds heavier than I’Tavius Mathers was listed for the Music City Bowl 2-deep. Mathers, at 5-11, 189 in December, is three pounds lighter than sophomore Mark Dodson who will also factor in this season.

The only departure from a pretty deep group is Jeff Scott, who got off to a fast start but whose impact was limited as the season wore on, first by defenses that adjusted to the Rebels’ outside run game, later by injury.

Scott played in eight games and finished with 497 yards and four touchdowns. His senior season will be forever remembered by Ole Miss fans for his 75-yard touchdown run that rallied the Rebels to a final-seconds win at Vanderbilt.

Mathers had a team-high 563 yards, Jaylen Walton 523. Walton had a nose for the end zone and led the Rebels with six rushing touchdowns.

Most of the power running was done by the quarterbacks, some by Bo Wallace but more by Barry Brunetti, who averaged 5.2 yards per carry. They combined for 10 rushing touchdowns.

Dodson showed a hard running style, but with the numbers ahead of him had only 22 carries.

The effort to improve power running won’t fall only to Judd.

Redshirt freshman Jordan Wilkins looked good last August, but somebody had to redshirt. He was listed at 6-1, 201 on the bowl roster.

You could make the argument that speedy Kailo Moore should have redshirted. They were never able to get Moore as involved on the edge with sweeps and short passes.

He finished with 18 carries for 69 yards and three catches for 22 yards. He also returned five kicks for 100 yards.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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  • Brett Adams

    I think there is some real talent in this bunch. If we can get the offensive line blocking as a unit, I think these guys can make some plays for us. Having a running game would help so much.

  • Lee814

    Parrish, one thing that Ole Miss has missed for years is a good power back like a Deuce. Last year it seemed that OM had some early success with speed on the edge, but later in the season teams started figuring out how to stop that. With no up the middle run game, the whole offense sputtered at times because it became too predictable. I hope you are right about Judd. If the power run game starts happening, it will certainly open up the outside for the speedy backs.

    • Parrish Alford

      Hugh as downplayed the power back thing when it’s been brought up, but he’s obviously worked to address it. I think he’ll have a couple of good options in 2014. We’ll see.

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