Frank Wilson

What a difference a year makes for some position coaches. Last season, Ole Miss RB Coach Frank Wilson had to take a converted safety, Mico McSwain, to get production from the tailback slot. This year, he's got four, including McSwain. Read about it inside.

A year ago, Ole Miss Running Backs Coach Frank Wilson's life was in turmoil - on and off the field.

Wilson, a New Orleans native, watched from Oxford as Hurricane Katrina devastated his beloved home city and wrecked everything immediate and extended members of his family had.

Many members of his family fled to the comfort and security of Oxford. Many Ole Miss families helped Frank's family piece their lives back together, providing clothing, food and temporary housing.

It is an experience he will never forget.

"Katrina was like the Great Depression for hundreds of thousands of people, my family included," recalled Wilson. "The greatest devastation of the storm was the migration of thousands of people uprooted from what used to be their homes and the separation of families.

"My family was fortunate. They had a place to land, so to speak, and received a lot of love and support from the Ole Miss family."

The home Frank grew up in and the home he owned as an adult in New Orleans before moving to Oxford were both demolished by Katrina.

"I had gotten all of my things out about a month before it hit - moving everything I had to Oxford, but the rest of my family was not as fortunate," he said. "But, as I said, they had a safe haven to come to and we will always be grateful for that."

Frank's strong New Orleans connection and roots had enabled him to recruit several players from the area. He counseled the Ole Miss players from that area during the ordeal.

"I spent a lot of time with those kids and their families during that time. We had to cope with football and what had happened to them and their families. Their resilience was amazing," he continued. "They are all fine now, but it was tough for a long time.

"BenJarvus Green-Ellis lost an uncle in the storm and Hayward Howard's home was right where the levee breached, but they came out of it stronger."

At the same time all of that was going on, the 2005 season was quickly approaching and Frank was not getting the production from his RBs that was needed. Jamal Pittman, Brandon Jacobs and Alan Abrams were competent, but didn't really fit the Reb offense. More speed was needed.

The coaches opted to move Mico McSwain, a redshirt freshman S, to TB.

"In the middle of the Katrina aftermath, we were teaching a youngster a position he'd never played on this level," Wilson smiled. "We had our hands full, but we kept plugging away one day at a time."

McSwain was limited in what he knew about the position during the year, and was used mostly as an outside runner, but he still managed to gain a school freshman rushing record of 612 yards before missing the last two games to injury.

"It was a tough year, but Mico was the bright spot. The fullback position was also hurt by injury when Jason Cook broke his arm. By the end of the year, we were barely limping," he stated.

But all of that has apparently changed in short order.

Transfer TB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who sat out last year, is now eligible. Mico is healthy again. Signee Cordera Eason is showing a lot of promise and JUCO transfer Bruce Hall, a converted QB, has turned some heads as well.

At fullback, Cook is healthy and a pair of promising freshmen - Reggie Hicks and Derrick Davis - are doing well.

"Needles to say, we are excited about the running backs this year. We are very fortuante to have quality depth. We are going into the season with several guys we feel are capable of getting the job done. We have more of a grip on our running game and on our personnel," Wilson noted. "BenJarvus is everything we hoped he'd be. He's been very steady, he works hard and he will give our running game a big lift and some stability."

Frank is also excited about Mico's return to health.

"Mico gives us a different style of runner. BenJarvus is your traditional downhill power back and Mico is a slasher. He has learned to do things good running backs do," Frank said. "He's done a good job and they complement each other very well. We expect big things from both of them."

Hall is an enigma. He makes plays, but can't seem to find his way on the field in the top three at TB. A good problem for the once TB-depleted Rebs.

"Bruce figures into our plans. He's a good running back. In a 12-game season, we will need all those guys. We don't expect one guy to carry us. We are counting on a rotation of guys and we think Bruce gives us quality depth. He catches the ball well, he blocks well and he's a tough runner," Wilson explained.

And let's not forget the three freshmen - Eason, Hicks and Davis.

"We are very pleased with the progress of all three of them. We feel like when we do play them they will be adequate and productive and will only get better with experience," Wilson added.

It's hurricane season again and it's football season again. Wilson is praying for beter results this year in both.

"It's eerie to watch storms developing now. The feeling is different than it used to be when we, New Orleans natives, used to kind of take them for granted. That's no longer the case," he said. "We have felt the wrath and pray nobody ever feels it again, but you always know in the back of your mind that it could.

"As for the season, and the running backs, we know better things are in store for us. We aren't searching and hunting this year. We have some stability and that makes a world of difference."

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