The 2019 season was a disappointing season for Ole Miss football, losing five one-possession games and falling short of bowl eligibility at 4-8. In an incredibly frustrating year of poor in-game decisions that resulted in the firing of Matt Luke and much of the coaching staff, one positive underlying theme continued to show up week in and week out— the ground game. Freshman running backs Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner joined senior Scottie Phillips and first-year quarterback John Rhys Plumlee in rushing for 2,927 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Head coach Lane Kiffin, offensive coordinator Jeffy Lebby and running backs coach Kevin Smith will take over the offense in 2020, and inherit a talented group of explosive young playmakers. To add to the mix, the two landed commitments from two hard runners on National Signing Day.
Three-star Kentrel Bullock comes to Oxford from Columbia, Miss. at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds with breakaway speed in the open field.
Four-star Florida native Henry Parrish matches Bullock’s size and speed, and adds an extra level of physicality.
Henry Parrish. Holy sh*t what a run. pic.twitter.com/3wIGLRkf3r— Andrew Ivins (@Andrew_Ivins) August 22, 2019
With a lot of positivity to look toward the future of the Rebel rushers, let’s look back at the 10 best runs from 2019:
Scottie Phillips scores an exclamation point vs. Arkansas
With a 14-point lead late in the fourth quarter against the Hogs, the Rebels waltzed 66-yards down the field to go ahead 31-17 with six minutes left to play and all but seal the win. Phillips capped off the drive by dragging two defenders 26-yards into the end zone and caused an inexplicable amount of #Arkanger within the very much non-rival, completely irrelevant Arkansas fanbase.
Jerrion Ealy announces his arrival vs. Southeastern
The (far too close) win over the FCS opponent out of Louisiana was Ealy’s breakout party. He recorded a total of nine yards in the first two weeks, and then exploded for more than ten times that in week three. Early in the second quarter, Ealy fought his way through the first and second levels and broke off a 52-yard run to the opposing 30-yard-line that made it clear he was as good as advertised out of high school.
He had his number called again on the next play. Two plays, 82 yards, and a touchdown.
It may not qualify as a “run” for this list, but he returned a kickoff 94 yards earlier in the game that really burst him onto the scene.
John Rhys Plumlee’s first play from scrimmage vs. California Berkeley
Quarterback Matt Corral received the starting nod to begin the year, but went down late in the game with a chest injury. In stepped Hattiesburg, Miss. native Plumlee.
Facing a third-and-10, down 14 points at home, Plumlee took the snap from the shotgun and ran for 47 yards down the sideline into the red zone.
Plumlee’s first collegiate play from scrimmage set up a 15-yard touchdown run by Ealy that made it 28-20. The game would end in a heartbreaking fashion, but not without a valiant effort from No. 10.
John Rhys Plumlee channels his inner Olympian vs. Alabama
Making his first career start, Plumlee had the tall task of facing No. 2 Alabama. The Rebels won the first quarter of the game, and hung 31 points on the Tide behind the freshman signal caller’s 109 yards on 25 carries. He showed some serious athleticism, going up and over a lunging 6-foot-tall Shyheim Carter.
This John Rhys Plumlee hurdle is pretty impressive...and he's just a freshman. pic.twitter.com/q192MMWz9Q— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 28, 2019
Ole Miss was simply outmatched in the game, but Plumlee left it all on the field.
Jerrion Ealy’s home run touchdown vs. Vanderbilt
One of the Ole Miss’ four wins came against a sorry Vanderbilt team. The Rebels ran for 413 total yards in the game and couldn’t seem to be brought down. Ealy ran for 97 yards on four carries, anchored in a 78-yard touchdown run. He broke a tackle beyond the line of scrimmage and took it to the house.
You Can't Teach Speed: Freshmen Edition— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) October 6, 2019
A Thread ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/4SKxNUTOyx
Mama there went that man.
Snoop Conner went streaking vs. Vanderbilt
The thunder to Ealy’s lighting, Conner is a bowling ball that only falls forward. However, his deceptive speed makes him a load to try and bring down. In the slaughter of the Commodores, Conner scored his first collegiate touchdown on an 88-yard foot race. At 5-foot-10, 215 pounds, he blew through the middle and couldn’t be caught.
The play-by-play call makes it just that much better.
“We’re going streaking!!”
Jerrion Ealy runs through a poor fellow vs. New Mexico State
His speed speaks for itself, but Ealy can drive his legs with the best of them. In Ole Miss’ highest scoring game of the season, No. 9 stares a New Mexico State defender head-on and makes him pay.
The Aggie safety is now in the shadow realm.
Snoop Conner is a magician vs. New Mexico State
After seven weeks of consistent ground and pound work, Conner recorded his first 100-yard game against the Aggies. He scored the Rebels’ first touchdown of the game in ridiculous fashion that day.
Seriously, how did he get into the end zone?
John Rhys Plumlee’s breakaway vs. LSU
Against the eventual national champions, Plumlee ran for a single-game freshman record 212 yards on 21 carries, while becoming the sixth Rebel to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season. His second touchdown saw him break one around the corner and run a (very unofficial) 4.25 second forty speed for six.
Former LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is now the head coach at Baylor, Ole Miss’ week one opponent, and surely has nightmares to this day.
John Rhys Plumlee scores his fourth tudder vs. LSU
Capping off a historic season with an unprecedented performance against the Tigers, Plumlee owns the single season school records for rushing yardage and touchdowns by a freshman, total touchdowns by a freshman and single-season rushing yards by a quarterback. Scoring his fourth touchdown against the national champions, Plumlee faked a reverse and took it to the house.
Ole Miss QB John Rhys Plumlee is a lot of fun and also the LSU D is worrisome. pic.twitter.com/xBsK6gjLJL— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) November 17, 2019
Look at the vision to cut up the hole.
If the season is played as scheduled, there is no telling how Kiffin will use his abundance of backfield talent. However, in a spread offense that turns to the air far more often than the Rebels did under Rodriguez and Luke in 2019, it is to be expected that the ball-carriers will receive less touches than they did a year ago. That doesn’t mean Ole Miss will be less productive running the ball, as he has coached NFL talent and Heisman Trophy winners like Reggie Bush, Derrick Henry and Devin Singletary.
When Kiffin and Lebby do decide to keep the ball on the ground, history shows that the productivity will continue.