Eric Swinney

FSU will be much-anticipated first action for RB Eric Swinney

Eric Swinney will make his collegiate debut against Florida State Monday night in Orlando and the redshirt freshman, talented running back can hardly wait.

Since the start of Sugar Bowl practice, Ole Miss Running Back Eric Swinney has been hunting up Rebel defenders to try to punish.

It's just his style - make one move, get all the yards he can without contact and then look someone up to try and bulldoze.

It's been a familiar sight at Ole Miss practices since spring training.

Finally, he will get to look someone besides his teammates up when the Rebels clash with Florida State Monday night in Orlando.

"I'm very excited. I'm just trying to stay level-headed and focus on what I have to do," said Swinney, a 5-9, 215-pounder, who looks and runs like a bowling ball seeking pins. "I just need to play my game and do what the coaches tell me to do. Whatever I can do to help the team, I will do."

Eric Swinney

When August practice began, it appeared Swinney would get some playing time, but the majority of the running back reps would go to senior Akeem Judd and junior Jordan Wilkins with some Swinney mixed in. All that changed about a week into August when Wilkins was declared academically ineligible and would have to sit out the 2016 season.

Suddenly, Swinney was thrust into a much bigger role.

"All of the RBs roles have changed, but it's like Coach (Derrick) Nix always says - next man up. We all have to do our part to make our position better and take up the slack for Jordan not being able to play in games," he noted. "I'm excited about playing a bigger role, but I haven't changed my goals - to play my game and help my team by doing whatever I am asked to do."

Swinney has been getting a lot of guidance from Wilkins, but players tend to listen more to teammates who are in the trenches with them. Consequently, Judd has stepped up to help his younger counterpart.

"Akeem was already a leader, but now he taken on that role even more and is teaching me the little things, the ins and outs, I appreciate what he is doing with me," he continued.

Swinney redshirted last year while he was rehabbing from knee surgery. The year was beneficial.

"I got bigger and stronger and I am starting to get all my speed back now," he explained, "but the biggest thing I learned was how to study and learn and be more professional, so to speak, with my approach to football. I watched the older guys - Jaylon Walton and Akeem and Jordan and what they did to get ready and I am doing those things now."

Swinney knew what he had to do coming out of spring training, and he didn't even hesitate in saying it.

"Oh, man, pass protection, all day long," he said. "You have to know where the blitzes are coming from, knowing where to be and getting there quickly. That is definitely the biggest adjustment from high school. On this level, you have to work on that every day, watch film every day and perfect it. I had to do a lot of blocking in high school and I am physical so I think I am going to do OK with it."

Swinney said the team's goal is to build off of the ending of last season.

"We left 2015 with a lot of momentum and we want to keep that going. We want to make a statement that says we are here and we are ready to go," he closed.

Swinney will be a part of the equation, looking up defenders and handing out punishment.

It's what he does.

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