I had been waiting to write this article to see how things were shaking out at the running back position. The answer, with just three more days of Spring practice, appears to be "they aren't." But that's not a bad thing.
With Itavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton returning, the Rebels were hoping to figure out who would be that third running back who would take Jeff Scott's snaps. There were four candidates in Mark Dodson, Kailo Moore, Jordan Wilkins, and Eugene Brazley. Then Kailo Moore was moved to corner, and it looked like things were going to shake out pretty quickly. But then the unthinkable happened. All three freshman running backs looked good at times and bad at times.
This, of course, isn't a bad problem to have. The coaches have a wealth of talented running backs and more help on the way in Akeem Judd. However, it does muddy the water a little.
First, there's Mark Dodson. Dodson was a highly recruited player who signed with Ole Miss and enrolled a semester early. He did not redshirt as a freshman and finished the year with 22 carries, 124 yards, and a touchdown, adding a thirty yard touchdown reception on a dump-off against Idaho you can watch here. Dodson is shifty and looked pretty instinctive as a freshman, something I'm always watching for.
Then there's Jordan Wilkins. Wilkins is the most likely candidate to be a power runner this team didn't have a year ago. He is listed at 6'1" 209 lbs. and has drawn solid reviews from the coaches this Spring. Wilkins was a highly recruited player as a junior (ranked a top ten running back) before tearing his ACL and seeing his stock decline a bit He still chose the Rebels over Auburn, but he wasn't as highly touted as he had been. A redshirt season though, appears to have helped. From all reports, Wilkins looks strong, fast, and natural on the practice field. In the scrimmage Saturday, he had seven carries for 40 yards. He offers an element the others don't, but he may prove to be the best back regardless of role.
Lastly, Eugen Brazley. Brazley was unheralded as a recruit and nearly decommitted from Ole Miss at one point. When he arrived at Ole Miss he was immediately lost to a season-ending injury. I pretty much forgot he existed and was ready to write him off. In the first practice with pads, the coaches gave him a few snaps with the number one offense. At the time, it appeared that was just to see what he had with an adequate offensive line in front of him. But then the coaches continued mentioning him in the conversation. Brazley is small and doesn't necessarily offer anything different than the starters at the position, but the early word about him is that he has a shiftiness the other freshmen don't have.
Basically, we're a month into Spring practice, and the fans still have no idea what to expect from the freshmen running backs. Maybe the coaches do and are just paying lip service, but maybe they don't. Maybe they're as perplexed as we are. Unfortunately, we won't really know until this Fall.