Ole Miss has an abundance at talent at the tailback position. They graduate their starting running back in Jeff Scott but return sophomore's I' Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, and four talented true freshmen in Kailo Moore, Eugene Brazley (taking a medical redshirt for torn ACL), Jordan Wilkins, and Mark Dodson.
What exactly were Ole Miss' goals going into the recruiting season at tailback?
"Numbers wise we are probably signing two guys," coach Derrick Nix said. "I am really looking for a bigger guy. Hopefully a 210-220 guy that can do a little bit of everything. He can be a pass protector and be an in between the tackle guy that has enough speed that can give you the big play as well. If there is anything we are missing out of our stable right now it might be that back although we think we have recruited one in Jordan Wilkins. He has that ability to do that in the future but just having an every down back for us is what we are looking for. A guy on short yardage that can have the opportunity to be successful as well as pass protection as well."
How does the Ole Miss staff differentiate between a slot back and running back when they evaluating them?
"I think just on the skill set. I think when you get them in camp or see them in tape. A lot of the time the smaller guys you can see them line up in the slot and running routes and doing reverses. You see some of the bigger backs not quite as swift as the little guys. They are always dotting the I's and running between the tackles. I think the main thing is getting them into camp and see their ability to catch the ball and get in and out of their breaks."
The Rebels have arguably the top junior college running back in the country
committed in Akeem Judd who fits that big back mold and Mississippi's fastest
runner in D.K. Buford. If one of them hypothetically were to decommit would
they fill in one of their slots with another back?
"We have not made a definite decision on that yet. I think it depends on the progression of the guys we signed this year. If we feel comfortable that those guys can carry the load for us in the future we would probably save that scholarship or two for some other positions that are more needed. It's just too early to know that at this time but that's the way we are leaning right now if that scenario were take place. Hopefully it does not though (laugh)."
Does it make it more difficult for coach Nix having so many capable guys at one position?
"Not really. I like it really. It gives me an opportunity to see these guys compete real hard everyday at practice. I think as we get closer to the season and we get rid of their feelings, you know, every one of them are used to being the guy for their team on Friday nights. It takes a kid that is selfless to understand this is a team deal now. Everybody is going to have their turn to go out there and shine. They just have to stay patient. Their time will come."
Derrick Nix has been at Ole Miss for the Nutt and Freeze eras. Houston brought in a couple top 15 ranked classes but the current staff took it up a notch and put in a consensus top 10 class. What has been the difference?
"To be honest it seems like a lot of deja vu again from an excitement standpoint from all of our fans and just the vibe around town. You look around the social media and you see how well we are recruiting and that carries a lot of weight for these kids. I guess the biggest thing is our ability to go out of state and sign some of the country's best. That was the biggest difference between our top classes with Coach Nutt compared to our last class. We kind of went outside our state lines a little bit and were successful."
Do you recruit a different style of running back for the spread offense?
"I think you still get the same type of guy but you can survive with the smaller guy. The guy that is kind of swift that can line up in the slot and catch the ball out of the backfield. He does not necessarily have to be in the backfield pass protecting a 100% of the time. We can find different ways to get him the ball. We can use his skills to go one-on-one and run a route against a linebacker more than him trying to pick him up on a blitz."
Yancy Porter is the Mississippi Scout for Scout.com and he can be reached at email@example.com