By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – It may not be only mop-up duty for Ole Miss running back Mark Dodson moving forward.
Depth at running back had made it difficult for the freshman from Memphis to get on the field, though Rebels coach Hugh Freeze had pulled his redshirt in Week 2 of the season.
Dodson didn’t get his first carry against Idaho until the fourth quarter, but he turned a lot of heads with his performance, including the most important head. Now Dodson’s opportunities in practice will change in this week’s open date.
“He’ll get some looks this week for sure,” Freeze said. “I thought he ran with some pop, some explosion. It’s what we saw in recruiting. He got his chance, and he spoke loud and clear that he wanted to get a look. I like that … compete.”
Dodson carried seven times for 57 yards and scored when he turned a short pass from Barry Brunetti into a 30-yard TD.
Dodson had appeared in five games prior to last week, but had only carried against Southeast Missouri State – twice for 12 yards.
Bryon Bennett, a tackle since arriving at Ole Miss, moved out to end only because of the rash of injuries at the position, but it’s not a given he’ll move back to tackle when the wounded return.
Bennett, a junior from Madison, had a tackle for loss and a forced fumble against Idaho.
“I’m as pleased as I’ve been in my year and a half with him,” Freeze said. “His motor turns up a little bit when he’s out there it seems. Moving forward, it will be interesting for us to look at what the best combinations are and how to go about getting our best players on the field.”
The Idaho game was the Rebels’ first without athletic freshman tight end Evan Engram, whose ankle injury required surgery that ended his season.
Engram – with 20 catches for 265 yards and three touchdowns – had become a weapon in the passing game, particularly in the seam – running straight ahead to stretch the field.
Freeze didn’t try too many things with his tight ends against Idaho.
“We didn’t do everything we normally do,” he said. “We felt like we could win the game without that. … We have to figure out what we’re going to be moving forward.”
Nick Parker, Justin Bigham and Matt Brown are the players working to fill that void. None had a catch against Idaho.
“I thought those guys were pretty solid, but they’re different than Evan. We have to make sure we’re asking them to do what they can do,” Freeze said.