A mix of speed and power should improve Ole Miss' run game in 2016

Veteran running backs Akeem Judd and Jordan Wilkins will look to build on their 2015 successes, while redshirt freshman Eric Swinney will look to create some buzz around the SEC this fall.

Petre Thomas

Departing Running Backs

Jaylen Walton.

Returning Running Backs

Akeem Judd, Jordan Wilkins, Eric Swinney, Eugene Brazley, D.K. Buford, Martin Johnson and Nathan Vanderburg.

Class of 2016 Signees

D'Vaughn Pennamon, Jarrion Street and Justin Connor.

Petre Thomas

Ole Miss' run game is looking its best under Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze entering the 2016 season. While the Rebels lose their leading rusher from 2015 in Jaylen Walton, returners Akeem Judd, Jordan Wilkins and Eric Swinney combined could finally provide the Rebels the spark they've been looking for in the run game. 

Judd and Wilkins will enter the fall as co-starters at the position. Judd was the third-leading rusher last season with 421 yards on 77 carries and three touchdowns. He was effective in the second half of the season as a power back for Ole Miss. Judd will look to pick up the tough yards for the Rebels in his senior season, and use his power running skills to make some big plays for the Rebels. Wilkins finished the 2015 season fourth on the rushing list with 379 yards on 72 carries and four touchdowns. At his best, Wilkins shows a great mix of power and speed but lacks consistency. The junior needs to use this fall to establish himself as the undeniable starter heading into the 2017 season. The skills are there but it's a matter of Wilkins putting together big performances in key games.

Eric Swinney will finally get a taste of SEC football this fall after sitting out his freshman season with a knee injury. The redshirt freshman drew praise from Ole Miss players and coaches all spring for his physical running style. While Judd and Wilkins have a few extra pounds on Swinney, his power and finishing ability are tremendous.

"Really excited about Eric Swinney," Freeze said at this year's SEC Media Days.

"When your defensive guys are talking about 'man it's painful to tackle a guy,' you kind of like that. I hear that over and over again when they talk about Eric Swinney."

Swinney can also catch the ball out of the backfield and can be elusive when he needs to be. If he keeps developing at the rate Ole Miss coaches want him to the redshirt freshman has huge potential.

While the Rebels signed three running backs in the class of 2016, only one might end up on offense. Justin Connor is expected to play cornerback, while Jarrion Street will most likely move to linebacker. That leaves Manvel, TX standout D'Vaughn Pennamon as the lone back of the class. Pennamon will need some time to add a little more size and learn the Ole Miss system. He could be a threat in the future as a pass catching running back for the Rebels.


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