PARRISH ALFORD: Liggins adds beef to Rebels’ backfield

Jeremy Liggins is slotted to step into the "Barry" package, the short-yardage situation role named after former Ole Miss quarterback Barry Brunetti. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Jeremy Liggins is slotted to step into the “Barry” package, the short-yardage situation role named after former Ole Miss quarterback Barry Brunetti. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

PARRISH ALFORD

PARRISH ALFORD

OXFORD

A heralded high school recruit and a transfer from West Virginia, Barry Brunetti left his mark on Ole Miss football. Not records and bowl games but in a memorable way nonetheless.

Brunetti is gone, but his naming rights live on, at least the way starting quarterback Bo Wallace understands the Rebels’ short-yardage offense.

“The whole Barry package that we had last year was pretty successful,” he says.

Brunetti was the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart, but he was also the Rebels’ most physical inside runner.

The Rebels were ninth in the league in fourth-down conversions at 53.6 percent last year, and in the 12th game of the regular season Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze was still trying to address power at the line of scrimmage. Against Mississippi State it was with defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche.

This year Freeze has an option of similar size that won’t take away from his defense. It’s Jeremy Liggins.

If you use Oxford as your point of origin the signing of Liggins generated excitement for his athleticism and his exploits at Lafayette County High School then as you extended outward it generated intrigue for the idea of a guy with his mass and the football in his hands.

Liggins is listed at 6-foot-3, 296 pounds. That’s almost 40 pounds heavier than Jared Lorenzen was listed for Kentucky in 2003.

“It’s hard to tackle a 300-pounder moving that fast. I definitely think he can help us out,” said Wallace, who adds that he welcomes the help.

The Barry Package worked for Ole Miss because Brunetti was also the team’s biggest, most physical inside runner.

Redshirt freshman Jordan Wilkins and the signing of juco back Akeem Judd give the Rebels more power at the position but nothing close to matching Liggins’ mass.

Different look

Freeze also likes the idea of giving a different look to defenses. In baseball it’s called a change-up.

Through spring drills Liggins has shown nimble footwork and confident, secure ball-handling. He was 3-for-9 passing in Saturday’s scrimmage, but passing is not why he would be taking snaps.

Liggins hasn’t broken off any jaw-dropping runs in open scrimmages, but he understands the run game. He doesn’t go down easily, and he doesn’t go down solo.

Reserve defender Billy Busch was credited with a sack of Liggins on Saturday and got up flashing the Land Shark. Technically it was a sack, but Liggins moved up in the pocket 2 yards after contact and almost got back to the line of scrimmage.

There was talk of working Liggins at a different position, like tight end, this spring. That never materialized. It wouldn’t take much to do that over a couple of weeks during the season if Freeze thinks it will strengthen his football team.

Liggins’ challenge through the summer is conditioning and weight loss. If he’s successful there he has a chance to help the Rebels in the package that bears Brunetti’s name.

Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMissSports.com.

  • ostrogoth

    Liggens was REALLY fun to watch in the spring game. No doubt who will be carrying the ball when it’s 4th and 1 at the goal line.

  • ostrogoth

    He passed great too!