Stylishly Speaking

For now, the top three tailbacks in spring training are Brandon Bolden, Enrique Davis and Jeff Scott. Their styles vary, which, in the long run, helps them all produce. Read about it inside.

The 2011 Ole Miss football team has some developing to do and some holes to fill between now and next fall, but one area that has shown to be solid, if not a little bit better than that, is at tailback.

At this point in spring training, it seems the Rebels have five legitimate guys who can carry the mail effectively and they all have distinct styles.

Brandon Bolden, Enrique Davis, Jeff Scott, Devin Thomas and Nick Parker have all shown signs of productivity.

For now, it looks as if Bolden, Davis and Scott will get the bulk of the workload, but Thomas and Parker could have roles as well.

Running back Brandon Bolden
Associated Press
Bolden is the jack of all trades, arguably the most versatile player on the team. Brandon is coming off an excellent junior campaign and fruitful offseason which has enhanced his skills even more. He basically has no glaring flaws and is as valuable as anyone on the squad.

Scott is the speedster, the change-of-pace guy. The blur who has a valued role as well.

Davis is a player who gets overlooked by some fans at times, but who has the confidence and respect of the guys who call the plays and make the decisions about who will get the ball and when. He's primarily a power back who can make a move or two to avoid defenders when the opportunity arises.

"We think we have five tailbacks who can produce," said Coach Houston Nutt. "Some of them are situational guys, but all can help us. At this point, we aren't nervous about putting any of them in a game and that's a good feeling."

For the intents of this offering, we'll concentrate on Davis and Scott. You already know about Bolden and his value to the team, Thomas is reliable and solid, and Parker, a pure power back, is still kind of feeling his way while dragging bodies with him on infrequent reps with the ball in his hands.

Davis matched Bolden in the offseason stride for stride and it's showing in the early going of spring training.

"The biggest thing for me this spring is learning the new playbook," said Davis, heading into his senior season. "I think I'm doing pretty good with that part. I just have to keep studying it, but I'm picking it up pretty well. There's some stuff that's the same, but about 50% that's different.

"Physically, I've been working really hard on my hands. I made a good improvement last year with my hands and I can feel I'm even better this time around. I also want to become better in pass protection and I can see that coming around as well."

Davis, who weighs 220 now but feels comfortable "anywhere between 215 and 225," has also changed the way he runs the ball to his advantage, as was apparent in last Saturday's scrimmage.

"I'm trying to run with more of a lean, lower and more behind my pads. It's made me a more effective runner," Davis closed. "I feel I'm getting more YAC (yards after contact) yards and I feel more powerful.

Running back Jeff Scott
Associated Press
"One goal I have is to never let the first tackler get me down. Even if I don't break the tackle, with the way I am running now, I feel I can get another yard or two after contact."

So far, so good for Davis.

Scott also put in the time and effort in the offseason.

He literally burst on the scene last year as a true freshman burner, but he was only carrying 168 pounds on his 5-7 frame.

"I was listed at 175, and weighed that when I first got here, but I lost some during the season. Once I got acclimated to the weight room and Coach (Don) Decker and his staff, I started putting on solid weight in the offseason. They did a great job with me. I'm now around 180 pounds," explained Jeff. "I'm also stronger. My bench went up 50 pounds from 250 to 300."

And he looks even faster. . .

"I feel faster," he continued. "I have never minded the physical part of football, even at 168 pounds, but now I have even more confidence at 180. I'm probably not going to run over many guys at my size, but now it will take a more solid lick to knock me off my feet. I can break arm tackles and break through shots that aren't clean better, I think."

With those three, and Thomas and Parker ready and able in the wings, the tailback slot is in good shape for the 2011 season.

Mr. Everything (Bolden), Mr. Inside (Davis, who can also bounce outside) and Mr. Outside (Scott, who also likes running downhill between tackles) should make the Rebel running game a major concern for the opposition.

Options always make a position better. The Rebs have legitimate options at tailback.

Options you can hang your hat on.

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