I don’t think I’ve written or spoken about the running backs this month as much as I have other positions.
That’s the price you pay when your position group is solid.
I like the experience, talent and depth at this position. I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton will get the first opportunities, as Hugh Freeze pointed out earlier this week. That should be the case based on their experience.
I had a radio show from Chattanooga call in the spring. They wanted to talk about I’Tavius Mathers, among other things, and asked if I thought he’d rush for 1,000 yards this year. They were surprised when I answered no. That’s not because I don’t think Mathers is capable. It’s because there are so many quality backs who will be sharing reps. The quarterback also plays a part in the run game, and this is not a run-only offense.
Sometimes in the running back discussion I tend to overlook this guy:
Obviously Mark Dodson feels very much a part of the competition as well he should. He might have beaten out Mathers and/or Walton last year had he been a sophomore along with them.
If he’s going to get meaningful carries in 2014 he’ll have to beat out junior college transfer Akeem Judd.
I think Judd has a chance to make an impact on this team because he’s the heaviest back. At 220 pounds he has 22 pounds on Dodson, 30 on Mathers and 54 on Walton.
The experience of Mathers and Walton is a big deal. Coaches love experience, and last year the two of them combined for 1,086 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. If that production is coming from one player he’s All-SEC.
With the limited viewing opportunities we’ve had, we can see coaches spending time with Judd. They’ve even split him out wide in some sets.
What could tip the scale Dodson’s way is pass protection. That’s especially important given the under-construction state of the Ole Miss offensive line. The running back who can best pick up the blitz and give Bo Wallace the necessary split second to get off a pass for a big play downfield will be the running back who gets the most plays. That will translate into the most carries.
While there are six quality backs on the roster — I’m including Jordan Wilkins and Eugene Brazley — it’s hard for me to imagine more than three playing significant roles.
Pass protection will be the difference-maker.