By Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – With the future at running back somewhat uncertain for Ole Miss, a newcomer could have a shot to come in and do good things.
South Panola coach Lance Pogue things his departing tailback is that kind of guy.
Nick Parker gave a verbal commitment to Ole Miss earlier this month. Parker doesn’t fit the bill of the small, quick back like Dexter McCluster, who helped carry the Rebels to a second-straight Cotton Bowl win.
Parker is a bigger guy but has a get up-field quickly mentality that coaches find appealing.
“He’s physically gifted. He has great speed, and he’s a tough down-hill runner,” Pogue said. “He’s not going to juke and jive you, and very seldom will he lose yardage. He’s going to hit it up in there and be physical with it.”
Spring football will begin in late March without McCluster, and rising junior Brandon Bolden rushed for only 297 yards in eight SEC games, finishing the year at fullback.
The only other spring competitors with game experience will be Rodney Scott and Enrique Davis, both with about a full game’s worth of carries spread out over 12. Scott had 34 rush attempts, Davis 29.
Pogue says the offensive system at South Panola, with its zone and power plays, should have Parker in place to compete quickly.
“He’ll have his feet wet,” Pogue said.
But what may separate Parker from recent South Panola signees at Ole Miss is his grades. He won’t take the ACT until April, but Pogue stresses that his star running back is “doing an excellent job in the classroom and has really good grades.”
He believes Parker will make a qualifying score on the standardized test. That hasn’t been the case with more recent South Panola players, whose impact at Ole Miss has been delayed.
It’s a culture that Pogue and his staff have worked hard to change by emphasizing awareness among their athletes at the lower grade levels and by helping them receive extra academic help when necessary.
“We’re fortunate to have a lot of good players with a lot of potential, and when they graduate from here we want them to have the ability to qualify. We want our kids at an early age to understand the process and not wait until their senior year to try and do something,” Pogue said. “We want to hold them accountable to do good work in the classroom and have good character, and they’ve come a long way.”