The Mail Carriers

In this installment of the pre-spring series, Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt discusses the Rebel backfield, an area he's comfortable with. Read about it inside.

After the 2010 season ended, the Rebel coaches hit the recruiting trail.

They didn't have to go off campus for one of their most important "recruits" – Tailback Brandon Bolden, who was contemplating leaving Ole Miss early for the NFL after a stellar season that included 976 yards rushing on 163 carries good for 6.0 YPC and 14 touchdowns and 32 catches for 344 receiving yards and three TDs.

"Brandon was so valuable to us last year. He even ended up being one of our gunners on the punt team. He just did it all for us," said Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt. "I am really glad we have him back and I think in the long run he made an excellent decision to return. If he has the kind of senior season we expect in 2011, I think he will enhance his draft status a lot."

But Nutt's comments came with a caveat.

"Brandon is a bright young man and he realized if he came back for his senior year the whole point is to get better. He understood that and took that attitude into the offseason program," Nutt stated.

"He has had a tremendous offseason. He's gotten faster and he looks better than ever. He just has to do it every day, which he has so far. If he keeps up the pace he's on, the sky is the limit for him."

Bolden returns for his senior season looking to build off a strong junior year
Associated Press
While Bolden is the frontrunner at tailback, Houston has faith and confidence in three more TBs.

"Enrique (Davis) is faster now than he's ever been. His mindset is very, very good. He wants to go out with a bang and he's working toward that end. With Brandon, that gives us two really solid senior backs that we can hang our hats on," he explained. "They have experience and they have both worked hard to be at the top of their games."

Last year, newcomer Jeff Scott got a buzz going with his electric speed quick adjustment to the college game. Jeff also made a late splash returning kickoffs.

"Jeff gives us that lightning quick guy all coaches want and try to recruit," Nutt said. "For a freshman, he did some really good things, really good. Our goal for him during the offseason program was for him to get stronger. He has done that. I think that will help him be a better all-around back in the long run. I'm excited to see how he advances now that he has some solid experience on this level. He should make a jump."

Nutt said Rebel fans should not write off Devin Thomas – he hasn't.

"Don't count out Devin Thomas. He's going to be valuable to us. There will be a role for him," Houston assessed. "He's steady, he can make things happen and he does everything the right way."

At fullback, Nutt has been impressed with what he has seen from junior H.R. Greer in the offseason.

"If we played tomorrow, H.R. would be first in that line. He's dedicated, he's very strong and he's over 230 pounds now," said Houston. "He's a workaholic and he has a great attitude. He is also starting to exert some leadership on his group and we like to see that from guys other than seniors."

Scott brings speed to a crowded backfield
Associated Press
Right on Greer's heels is fellow junior E.J. Epperson, who is more of the prototype FB at 6-2, 250-ish.

"From everything I have been told, E.J. has had his best offseason since he has been here. I know he looks the part. He's got the right body for the position. All we need is for him to get a little more physical play-in and play-out," noted Nutt. "If he will do that, he can help us in a lot of different ways – fullback, special teams and so on."

Nutt also likes what he has seen from some of the walk-ons, like redshirt freshmen Earnest Harmon and Brandon Keel, but he quickly turned his attention to the wild card in the backfield, redshirt freshman Nick Parker.

"Is he a tailback or a fullback? We are going to use him at both positions in the spring," Nutt closed. "He's not a burner, but he's a slasher and a very physical runner who has a knack with the ball in his hands. He's gotten stronger and he's around 230 pounds now."

Nutt expects good things in the Rebel backfield due to experience, talent and numbers. Spring will go a long way in deciding the pecking order.

Next Up: The D Wall.

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