After Spring: Running Backs

While Jaylen Walton is the unchallenged starter there’s an interesting makeover going on at the rest of the position after I’Tavius Mathers and Mark Dodson both transferred out of the program.
Though he was nicknamed the “I Train,” Mathers didn’t consistently gain many yards after contact in his three years at Ole Miss.
Dodson might have helped his cause by redshirted in 2013 but did not.
The staff put its trust in Walton at the end of the last season, and he rewarded them with a big Egg Bowl performance.
He’s shifty, sure-handed and an asset in the passing game. He’s a toned 170 pounds, but 170 toned is still 170, and Walton’s not going to break free from many linebackers.
The makeover is behind Walton, and that’s where the Rebels have become bigger at running back.
Akeem Judd (6-0, 220) and Jordan Wilkins (6-1, 209) could be the answer to yards after contact.
Wilkins can get around the corner, but he’s becoming a better between the tackles guy.
Hugh Freeze has described Judd as a guy versatile enough to handle all the demands of the position, not just power running.
I thought one of Judd’s most impressive plays in the Grove Bowl was one of his three catches, one that he made away from his body reaching behind.
I honestly thought we’d see a few more carries from Judd and Wilkins in the game, but I guess that was part of being vanilla.
Wilkins did show some power on a 28-yard run. On five other carries he averaged almost 7 yards.
Judd was at almost 5 yards a carry with 24 on five attempts.
That was pretty good work behind a makeshift offensive line going against a deep and talented front seven.
Eugene Brazley got 10 carries in the game, but I don’t think Brazley will get a lot of carries next fall.
Freeze is really high on freshman Eric Swinney, Rivals’ No. 10 rated running back, who will likely be on campus in the late summer.
Freeze describes Swinney as a guy with great balance, vision and acceleration.
With Swinney in the mix that’s four backs. It was hard to get snaps for four backs last year and will be again this year if everyone stays healthy.
There are two running backs currently committed in the 2016 class. Walton will be gone after 2015, and Swinney could be the do-it-all back in 2016 and one with a little more power.
For now the primary goal is to improve a mediocre run game that ranked10th in the SEC and 73rd in America last season with 155.5 yards a game.
The offensive line plays a big part in that but not the only part.
Ole Miss backs have to be better with yards after contact, and it looks like they have a chance to show improvement.

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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