Options

Even though senior TB Jeff Scott has been missing from action the past couple of games, Ole Miss Running Backs Coach Derrick Nix has viable options to rely on.

Based on the results of the first eight games at running back, Rebel RB Coach Derrick Nix has a problem, but it's a good problem.

Who to give the ball to?

At the first of the year, it was mostly senior Jeff Scott, who responded with 434 yards on 53 carries, an 8.2 yards per carry average, but when Scott went down with what has now been determined as a bone spur that resulted in some nerve problems in his leg, Jaylen Walton and I'tavius Mathers were called on to take up the slack, which they have done admirably.

Walton has gained 321 yards on 64 carries (5.0 per tote) and Mathers has racked up 326 yards on 48 carries (6.8 YPC).

Then you throw in the eye-opening showing of freshman Mark Dodson, who had 57 yards on just 7 carries against Idaho, and the need to get fellow freshman Kailo Moore, who has outstanding speed, the ball at times and you've got yourself a good old-fashioned logjam at RB.

Who does Nix feed? How does he manage that bottleneck?


Jaylen Walton
Associated Press

"I think they all understand when they come in here that for Ole Miss to get where we need to be that we need a number of backs who can produce," he says, philosophically. "Jeff, Jaylen, I-Train, Dodson, Kailo - they all know they have to be ready for when their number is called and be prepared to produce.

"When their number is called, they have to be ready to go. We'll come up with some packages for all of them to get them involved. The game will dictate which of those packages we call. I think they all understand that."

Dodson has emerged as the "new kid on the block" here lately due to his showing against the Vandals, which impressed everyone, including Nix.

Getting a taste of the action has motivated the frosh from Memphis Whitehaven.

"I think he's had a little more excitement and enthusiasm in the way he's practicing," Nix said.. "Not that he hasn't worked hard all year, but there is a little more bounce in his step since he got to play.

"I think it's helped him knowing he has a shot to help us Saturday against Arkansas. Every kid wants to play and when you come out of high school with the type of accolades Mark had, it's tough watching others play. He's eager to get his chance to show what he can do."

But as good as Dodson's effort was, it's very hard for Nix to discount what Scott, prior to his injury, Walton and Mathers have done.

Bird in the hand kind of stuff, so to speak.

"When Jeff went down, I thought Jaylen and Mathers responded really well," Nix evaluated. "They took the bull by the horns. It's never been about their ability. They've just been waiting their turn.

"I'm really glad they got the little bit of experience they did last year. I think that prepared them for what has happened this year. There is no stage fright with those two. The big lights don't bother them at all. They just go out and do what they are capable of doing."

It was thought this week that Scott would not be able to play against Arkansas, but a new diagnosis on his injury has given him a chance, muddying the water for Nix even more.


I'Tavius Mathers
Associated Press

"I'm not sure how much he will be able to go this week yet, but if he's available I am hoping to get him in some and I think he would probably field punts," Nix noted. "The more available, the better and Jeff is our senior and most productive back if you look at the stats."

Nix also has a promising young back waiting in the wings, Jordan Wilkins, who has been running with the scout team this year and will take a redshirt.

"I don't get to see him except during individual drills in practice because then he goes to the scout team to give the defense a look," Nix closed. "The feedback I have gotten so far from the defensive coaches has been positive.

"He's a beast down there, from what I'm hearing. He is the big back we want in our program. I'm looking for special things from him next year - a guy who will be around 215-220 pounds and can bring another dimension to our offense."

After last year, when it was basically Scott and Randall Mackey and two freshmen who were, at that time, no quite ready for prime time, the way the running backs have developed both in quality and quantity has been a boost in the right direction at that critical position.

Tailback at Ole Miss is now, and will be, on the crowded side, but that's a good thing.


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