Running back coach Derrick Nix has been a mainstay for this Rebel's program during the Nutt and Freeze eras. He's in his his eighth season at Ole Miss and during that time frame he's coached three tailbacks who have gone on to have successful careers in the NFL in Dexter McCluster, Brandon Bolden, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Nix is arguably Southern Miss' greatest running back of all time. He was named to the USM “Team of the Century" and is one of only five players in the history of their football program to become a member of the Southern Miss Legends Club.
This season "Bull", as Nix is called by family and friends, feels
like he's got all the intangibles to have more than a productive group of running
"We are in a great situation," Nix said. "We have a mixture of speed and power. I think all of the guys are pulling the wagon in the right direction and eager to get out there and show what they can do and try and improve on last year."
Jaylon Walton graduates in December. Akeem Judd is a redshirt junior. Eric Swinney, Jordan Wilkins and Eugene Brazley are underclassmen. They currently have D'Vaughn Pennamon, Jarrion Street, Denzel Mitchell, and Justin Connor committed.
"The goal going into this recruiting season was to make sure we get another dynamic back. We wanted someone that was similar to Jaylon Walton. We have done that. We need to keep getting guys that we think fit into our scheme. I think we have done that right now. We'll keep plugging away. Never stop recruiting. If I see some guys I like we will keep talking with them and see what happens come February."
Does having four commitments at running back concern any of the Ole Miss commits?
"That always comes up. Especially at that position. We just explain to them how we are going to use them. What we have done in the past is play three to four of them a lot. They know our track record. We aren't really a one or two back system. We play a lot of guys. They have all been receptive to that."
Is the goal to get all kind of different styles of tailbacks or are they looking for a particular style?
"I think the number goal is to get a guy who can do everything. Go out there and pass protect, catch a ball out of the backfield, make people miss in the open field, go in the redzone and make the big play. Of course that guy is hard to find sometimes. You try and piece them together. Sometimes a guy with size you might have to sacrifice a little speed. If you want speed you might have to sacrifice size. But we do our best and pride ourselves of trying to find quickness and speed first and then try and fall in with how big the guy is and what his growth potential might be. This offense is built around quickness and speed though. That's what we try and recruit to."
Nix's recruiting responsibilities don't stop at running back for Ole Miss. He's been the backbone to Ole Miss' success inside the state of Mississippi since he arrived in Oxford in 2008. What's going on within the borders?
"It's going well. I would say as far as the state (of Mississippi) it's down, numbers wise, as far as elite prospects. But I feel like we are doing really well with the ones that are (elite). We are making our presence known. They know what kind of program we have and what we have going forward. A lot of kids are being receptive to that."
The '16 class had a core of their recruits already committed well before the start of their senior season. Six to seven of them were committed before the start of their sophomore seasons. The 2017 class doesn't have that core of early commitments. Is that by design or coincidence?
"I think it's just the lay of the land. Some kids go into it and want to commit early. They know what they want and want to get established. They try and help build a great recruiting class. Some kids just don't know and are undecided. However that unfolds; it's still early for that class. We are going to keep plugging away, but right now we aren't seeing a rash of early commits like we did for the '16 class. But by the end of the day we'll get our share. We will always do that."
Yancy Porter is the Mississippi Scout for Scout.com and he can be reached at email@example.com