As the season ended, Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner each announced they were foregoing their final seasons of eligibility in order to get a jump in their pro football careers.
While neither back is expected to be a high draft pick, the modern NFL yields very short playing careers for running backs. If you want more information on that, James Dator did an awesome piece about running back shelf lives in the context of Christian McCaffrey’s contract extension a few months ago. Suffice it to say, the NFL just values backs differently than it did ten years ago. Backs who earn long contracts after their rookie deals are pretty rare.
And so Ole Miss already looked to restock its roster. A few days later, TCU running back Zach Evans announced he would be coming to Ole Miss. I espoused a lot of praise for Evans at the time. I think he’s going to be a one-year superstar before going to the NFL himself. At that point, the room seemed somewhat settled, with Evans and Henry Parrish the primary backs and Kentrel Bullock and signee Quinshon Judkins jockeying for backup carries. Then a few days after that, Henry Parrish announced he would be transferring to Miami, following former running back coach Kevin Smith.
While that left a little more uncertainty, it wasn’t disastrous. I assumed the Rebels were alright rolling with what they had, given a small number of scholarships remaining and a few more pressing needs to address in the portal.
But on Wednesday, SMU star sophomore Ulysses Bentley IV announced he was transferring to Ole Miss. Bentley, who has one of the most Ole Miss names of all time, is a two-time All-AAC selection after leading the conference in rushing in 2020 and performing admirably (6.7 yards per carry) as a sophomore while dealing with ankle injuries. He’s an escape artist kind of back who looks to bounce things outside or avoid tackles with stutter steps. This room was lacking someone with that skillset, and he should fit in nicely.
17 carries, 199 yards, 3 TD and a long of 84 yards. Have yourself a day Ulysses Bentley IV! pic.twitter.com/vNE0Pv26t7— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) September 20, 2020
Is this running back room better than the one that lost all three of its options to greener pastures?
As I mentioned, I’m really, really high on Evans. I think he’ll be one of the 2-3 best backs in the conference and an early day two draft pick. With Bentley solidified at the two spot, it’s easy to see the path forward for this running back room. They have a complete back at the top, a shifty, efficient change of pace backing him up, a speedster in Bullock, and a one-cut option with good vision in Judkins.
Having a toolbelt with that much diversity should allow Lane Kiffin and Charlie Weis Jr. to do some interesting things, especially with with an offensive line that should be one of the better units in the conference.