When you talk to sophomore LB Jonathan Cornell about the Ole Miss running backs, he just shakes his head.
"When you come up to hit one of them, you better bring your lunch box," he said recently. "You know there is going to be a major collision."
Running Backs Coach Frank Wilson smiles when he hears those kinds of comments. It's what he wants from his running backs.
"We like out guys to dish out punishment. We want tacklers dreading coming up and hitting us," he said. "We have a veteran group and they are acting like veterans. They are physical, tough, they work hard and they are leading.
"They are showing some of our younger guys the ropes and that's always good. We feel great about now and great about continuing to have depth in our backfield for the years to come."
In spring and during the offseason, the Rebel backs worked hard on being reliable receivers because the coaches want to incorporate more passes to the backs in the offense. Wilson said that has paid off.
"Coach (Dan) Werner wants to ge the backs more involved in the passing game. We put in the packages to do that and our guys have been makin sure that when their number is called in those plays they are going to catch the ball," Frank noted. "We want to put the ball in our backs' hands in open space against linebackers, etc, to create some mismatches. Our guys are excited about that and have prepared themselves accordingly.
"All three of the top tailbacks - BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bruce Hall and Cordera Eason - have good hands as well as FB Jason Cook and Reggie Hicks, who is playing at a couple of different positions. They all have strong hands and good hand-eye coordination. They catch the ball naturally. That has given Coach Werner more confidence to call their numbers in teh passing game."
Wilson has a lot of faith in the fact that his backs seem interchangeable.
"BenJarvus is our go-to guy, but we really don't lose much effectiveness when we go to Bruce or Cordera or whoever. All of them catch the ball well and all of them can run the ball well," he continued. "Bruce is very important to us, as well as Cordera. Both of them could be every-down backs. They are both, no doubt, SEC quality backs."
Wilson also said Andy Hartmann and Derrick Davis have been doing good jobs.
"Andy is as hard-nosed as any player wew have and will blow you up in the blocking game. Derrick finally has confidence in his knee and is showing his natural ability. We are very excited about having both of them," Wilson added.
Frank has been very pleased with the gradual transformation of Cook, his number one fullback.
"When we first got here, he was 225 pounds. Now he's a solid 250 and it shows," Frank said. "When the linebackers are in the holes, he can move them out of there. There are no more stalemates. He can drive them out and he's experienced. He knows what he's doing and he's a great leader."
Wilson has one transfer who can't play this year - Jeremy McGee, who has already dazzled at times.
"Jeremy is very elusive. He can plant and change directions in a heartbeat and he's explosive. He also has good vision and is an excellent receiver out of the backfield," Wilson assessed. "We are going to use this year to get him bigger and stronger and he'll be able to go next year. He shows a lot of promise thus far."
To this point in August drills, Wilson's troops are healthy, productive and wise. There's not much more he could ask for, but he doesn't want them to rest on their laurels.
"I see no signs of them slowing up. They are hungry. Ben practices every day as if he has everything to prove and is the fourth-team TB. That's what I want them to keep," Wilson ended.
Frank Wilson, RB update -
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