The Running Backs

Ole Miss RB Coach Derrick Nix doesn't have much to complain about after spring training. His stable is full. Read Part VIII of a series with the assistant coaches after spring training inside.

Running Backs Coach Derrick Nix makes no bones about it.

Due to the experience, past production and ability, the running backs have to be one of the main focal points of the 2011 team.

They responded that way in spring, he said.

"Working with a veteran group, they know what it takes, they know where they have to get better and they know how to work," said Nix. "They came out and worked every day in spring training. From top to bottom, they have kind of led the way on offense, something Coach (David) Lee challenged them to do.

"He watched tape from last year and told my group they had to make the offense go. I thought they took the bull by the horns in spring. The only downer was Brandon Bolden hurting his ankle in the second scrimmage."

At tailback, Bolden led the way most of the spring, with Enrique Davis, Jeff Scott and Devin Thomas sharing the spotlight in their own ways.

Brandon Bolden
Chuck Rounsaville
"Brandon took the challenge to be a complete player – running, catching, protecting, running the Wild Rebel. He's led the way by example as a player we can count on and be a playmaker," Nix explained. "Enrique started off a little slow, but during week two and in the second scrimmage, he showed signs of being a great back. He was running over people. He's working on being a complete player, starting with his pass protection. He's improved that a lot. He's busting his tail in his last go-round as a senior.

"I am very pleased with Jeff Scott. We all know he's fast, but he has improved his game mentally. He challenged himself to get better, to learn the whole offense, to become a complete back and to get bigger. He's on the path to doing all those things. Coach (Don) Decker has hit the right button with him in the weight room. He's bigger and more comfortable at a bigger size because it has actually helped his speed, not slowed him down. Devin makes plays in every scrimmage. It's just a crowded backfield right now. He's a great character kid who plays his role with no complaints. He wants to play more, of course, and I think he will. You put the film of him on and he always makes the first guy miss. He's good in pass protection. I would like to see him improve his hands and his route running."

Redshirt freshman Nick Parker is next, followed by walk-ons D'Lyle Wasington and Eric Dietz.

"Nick is coming along. He's about 235 now and I'd like to see him get down to 230. He's capable of running the offense, but he needs a little more quickness. He also needs to play behind his pads a little more and make that 235 pounds work for him by making his own holes," Nix continued. "Sometimes, when nothing is there, you have to make a hole. He's still searching for one a little too long.

"D'Lyle has shown some good signs. He can run. I think he helps us in the future. He has to learn the offense. When he does, he can help us in the future. The pace of the game is keeping Eric a bit behind. He needs a big summer, but he's a hard worker who I enjoy coaching."

At fullback, the guys drawing the raves from Nix are H.R. Greer and E.J. Epperson.

"H.R. is our bell cow. Tremendous worker, tremendous heart. He's not taking his weight room numbers and making them work for him on the field. He can power clean a house and squat 500-plus. I'm seeing that on the field now. He's striking guys. He improves every time he steps on the field. He also knows the offense. I expect big things from him this fall," Nix assessed. "E.J. is very talented and the biggest fullback we have at around 255 pounds. He can do it all, but he's got to become more consistent. He just needs to do it every down. When he is locked in, he's special – nobody does it better. He just needs to lock in more often. I'm pleased with him. He's attacking more people now and looking guys up.

"Ernest Harmon has no fear of attacking defenders. He gives it everything he's got. It is critical for him to gain weight. He's around 218 now and needs to be 230 or so. He's an excellent athlete who can catch and block, but he's just got to get bigger. Brandon Keel has shown some signs as well. He's fearless too. He just needs a big offseason to get his body right. Billy Busch has only been with us during spring, but I have seen some things I like from him as well. He just needs to keep coming with it and be patient."

Bottom Line: While this group may not have any "superstars," they are experienced, talented and deep. There's no reason they can't or won't be a focal point of the Rebel offense in 2011.

Next Up: The Quarterbacks.

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