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3 big runs against Texas Tech showed why Ole Miss RB Scottie Phillips could be a star

The Rebels new rusher has the potential to be a game-changer this season.

Getty Images/illustration by Red Cup Rebellion

Let’s begin by acknowledging that outside of a few big plays, Ole Miss’ ground attack struggled for most of the day against Texas Tech. Take away runs of 65, 44 and 39 yards and Rebel backs averaged just 3.2 yards per carry during the Rebels’ 47-27 win in Houston.

Those three runs can’t just be flung into the waste bin and chalked up to luck, though. All three were ripped off by new starting running back Scottie Phillips and all three showed why he could be a star in the making.

Phillips showed up in Oxford some six months ago as a moderately recruited three-star JUCO prospect. At the time, junior Eric Swinney was expected to win the starting job, but Phillips quickly impressed coaches with his aggressive, one-cut style. He won the starting job during fall camp and, with Swinney sidelined with mono, had the backfield mostly to himself during Saturday’s opener.

He’s decisive

Leading by 10 late in the first quarter, Ole Miss faced a fourth-and-one on the Tech 39-yard line. The Rebels opted to go for it and offensive coordinator Phil Longo shifted into an uncharacteristic heavy formation with QB Jordan Ta’amu under center. Ta’amu turned and handed to Phillips, who found a wall of tangled linemen blocking his way. Phillips spied an opening off the right side and cut back, plunging into open grass, where he side-stepped a helpless safety before speeding down the sideline.

Longo praised Phillips’ decisiveness after the game, echoing something we heard throughout fall camp. An Ole Miss offensive line that returns all five of its starters from a year ago should be able to carve out holes this season—it’ll be up to Phillips to find them. His first-quarter romp shows that he has the backfield vision, lateral ability and decisiveness to do so.

He’s shifty

Midway though the third quarter, Ole Miss’ lead had been whittled to 10. The defense was straining and felt like it could give way at any time. The Rebels needed something from its offense.

On first-and-10, Phillips took the handoff and picked his way past a series of brilliant pull blocks before finding himself face-to-face with a Tech safety. Phillips shook the poor defender’s soul loose before cruising to the end-zone for a 65-yard score.

He has great acceleration

First-and-10. Midway through the fourth quarter. Ole Miss up 44-27.

Phillips takes the ball and heads to the right side, again displaying his backfield vision by cutting away from two charging D-linemen and finding a crease. But an unblocked defensive end is closing from behind and a roving safety is drifting up to cut him off. Phillips hits the jets, zooming through the hole and blowing by the panicked safety.

“He has short, quick bursts,” Matt Luke told Ole Miss Spirit after the game, “but he also has the breakaway speed that he can finish it when he breaks the line. Really, really pleased for him to have some success. Want to see us be a little bit more efficient in the run game. Good to see us break those long ones, but I think we can be a little bit more efficient and then add that to our receiving core.”

There’s no doubt that Phillips and the rest of the ground attack need to be more efficient—they won’t be able to rely solely on big plays to carry them past SEC defenses. But on his three big runs against Tech, Phillips showed he has the potential to be one of the league’s breakout stars.