Over the past 20 years, Ole Miss has seen a rise to the extreme highs that come with Cotton Bowl and Sugar Bowl victories, and a fall to the lows of 12-straight conference losses and the Matt Luke era.
As talent came and went, the backfield saw a consistent flow of talent that brought distinctive skillsets with each year. We took a look back at this century’s ball-carriers and used individual attributes from some of the Rebel greats to create the perfect running back.
Here’s why we chose each feature:
Jaylen Walton’s Elusiveness
Although Jaylen Walton never quite translated to the NFL, he played a big role in the 2015-16 Sugar Bowl championship team and rewrote the history books while in Oxford. No. 6 holds the Ole Miss record with 2,036 career kick return yards, and finished his career second in school history with 4,742 all-purpose yards.
When the 5-foot-8, 165-pound scat-back took a handoff, he could bounce to the edge and break one down the sideline, but was not scared to run between the tackles and made a living in the flat as a receiver out of the backfield. He slipped his way out of unthinkable situations time and time again.
While Walton’s accomplishments and tape speak for themselves, it was his 2014 Egg Bowl that etched his name into legendary status. Walton took the pitch from Bo Wallace to the right, saw the defense swarm to the hole, cut back and reversed course to the left, broke (at least a billion) tackles and went 91-yards to secure the Ole Miss win.
Just look at this head fake as he plants and turns up field...
Need we say more?
Jordan Wilkins’ Vision
Jordan Wilkins’ career at Ole Miss was anything but typical, and quietly one of the best ever.
A consensus four-star recruit out of high school, he was ranked the No. 9 all-purpose back in the nation before he suffered a season-ending knee injury in his senior season, forcing him to redshirt in his first year in Oxford. He then played second fiddle to Walton in 2014 and 2015. In what would have been Wilkins’ first season as the primary back, he was ruled academically ineligible because of an administrative error.
As a senior in 2017, the 6-foot-1, 201-pounder started all 12 games as the primary running back and ranked second in the SEC and 13th in the nation with 6.5 yards per carry. Wilkins carried the ball 155 times for 1,011 yards to become just the fifth Rebel to break the 1,000-yard mark, ranking fifth all-time on Ole Miss’ single season charts.
His athleticism, strength and evasiveness spoke through the numbers, but his ability to see the field is what sets him apart. Wilkins’ sudden, one-cut ability comes from grasping the play before it unfolds, and having the wherewithal to anticipate the next move before it happens.
Whether that be putting on the juke and exploding through would-be tacklers...
Going up and over...
Or simply showing patience behind his blockers and finding the open lane...
Wilkins has the vision to get ahead of play and the juice to launch himself through the line of scrimmage and into the open field, making him the eyes of the perfect Rebel.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ Engine
BJGE, Benny, The Law Firm. Whatever you choose to call BenJarvus Green-Ellis, whenever he was given the ball, he didn’t stop churning his legs until the whistle blew.
Ole Miss did just that, a lot. After two years at the University of Indiana, Green-Ellis transferred to Oxford in 2006. As a junior he carried the ball 234 times, a school record.
He posted 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns in that season, and became the first (and only) Rebel with back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons after he recorded 1,137 yards and six touchdowns as a senior. With his 2,137 yards from scrimmage, he ranks in the top-10 on Ole Miss’ career rushing yardage list in two years.
At 5-foot-11, 215 pounds of pure muscle, Green-Ellis was a workhorse.
The Law Firm was a bruiser and loved to play physical.
He welcomed contact and usually ran through it.
Green-Ellis went on to a six-year professional career with the Patriots and the Bengals, and recorded a thousand-yard season with both teams. In his four years with New England, he never lost a fumble.
His high-energy, blue-collar motor never stopped running, and defines the true essence of the perfect Rebel rusher.
Brandon Bolden’s Receiving
By his sophomore year, Brandon Bolden took over the starting running back spot for the Rebels and carried the ball 129 times for 614 yards. In 2010, his junior season, he fell 24 yards short of a 1,000 yard season and scored 14 touchdowns on the ground. Against BYU in the first game of the 2011 season, Bolden suffered a broken ankle that caused him to miss a few games and kept him from full strength.
Even still, Bolden showed moments of greatness with his pure strength.
Brandon Bolden bulldozes through the Mississippi State defense for a 24-yard TD run in a 45-0 win during the 2008 Egg Bowl.— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) August 7, 2019
Just 24 days until we kick off a new season‼️
https://t.co/fgqdUGPTKZ | #HottyToddy pic.twitter.com/KuznjxqZlX
And could break one with the best of them.
There are a lot of qualities that could have been pulled from the 5-foot-11, 220-pound Baton Rouge, La. native, but once he graduated from Ole Miss he made his Super Bowl champion career on special teams, swing pitches and catching passes out of the backfield.
Asked Brandon Bolden about his TD vs Washington: "that wasn't a wheel route, it was just a route. That was strictly one-on-one coverage like it was me, Tom, and one of our friends playing in the backyard. Just get open." #Patriots pic.twitter.com/sgpi8idVVZ— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) October 23, 2019
He has a serious ability to track down the ball and pull it in.
Thus, he graces our perfect running back with his soft hands.
Deuce McAllister’s Strength
Deuce McAllister probably could have made up this entire list.
McAllister Deuce is the only player in Ole Miss history to record three seasons with at least 1,000 all-purpose yards, and holds a status so legendary, he is referred to by a single name.
Need we say more?
At 6-foot-1, 222 pounds, he had unprecedented speed for someone of his size, ran a 4.31 second forty yard dash at the NFL Combine, and finished his college career with school records of 616 carries, 3,060 yards, 36 rushing touchdowns, 41 total touchdowns, and 13 100-yard games.
He graces this list, however, with his powerful lower body. The wheels never stopped turning until two or three defenders could wrap him up and try to drag him down.
Sometimes it took more than two or three.
Don’t let the Deuce get loose.
Snoop Conner’s Balance
Standing 5-foot-10, 215 pounds, Snoop Conner is a bowling ball.
Playing the thunder to Jerrion Ealy’s lightning, the Hattiesburg, Miss. native averaged 6.3 yards per carry in his freshman season and only falls forward. When the defense thinks it has him stopped, Conner tacks on an extra two or three yards.
On the heels of a strong first year, No. 24 consistently stays firmly upright when he gets knocked around and is bound to continue his strong running in 2020.
Dexter McCluster’s Shiftiness
No running back to grace the field at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium has the lateral movement of Dexter McCluster. Only 5-foot-8, 170 pounds, the fifth 1,000 yard rusher in Ole Miss history could wiggle his way in and out of spots that most running backs wouldn’t be able to escape.
McCluster ran for 1,955 yards in his four years and accounted for 1,169 of them in his senior season. Where he made his presence felt over his entire career, however, was split out in the slot or on swing routes, nearly reaching his rushing total with 1,703 receiving yards.
As a senior against Tennessee he broke school records for rushing yards in a game with 282 and all-purpose yards in a game with 324, and played a big role in the 2009 Cotton Bowl win. His cutbacks were nasty.
In one instance you’d see him, and in the next, he’d be gone.
Seriously, just look at his foot speed.
Our perfect running back would not be complete without McCluster dicing up defenses.
Jerrion Ealy’s Speed
He’ll out run your momma, your poppa, your sister, your brother, your grandmother, your grandfather, your uncle, your aunt, your niece, your nephew, your cousin, your dog, your goldfish, your babysitter, your gardener, your plumber, your banker and you.
He will out run everybody.
Who would make up your perfect Ole Miss running back? Tell us in the comments below!