Ole Miss Running Backs Coach Derrick Nix likes what he has seen so far from his whole stable of running backs.
He recognizes the same potential as everyone who has witnessed a practice has seen and he's excited about it.
But even though he feels he has a winning hand, he's not ready to bet the house on it yet.
"They have been solid so far, overall," said Nix. "The guys have come out with the right attitude and have not taken any days off, so to speak. They all know they have to bring their best every day because of the competition. We're doing good things at fullback and tailback, but we've got to keep pushing it to be the kind of backfield we want to be this fall."
As of yesterday, the depth chart at tailback starts with junior Cordera Eason at the top of the ladder.
"Cordera has been the most consistent thus far. The big thing with him coming out of spring was ball security and he has been doing that well this fall camp," Nix said. "He also came back a little quicker from the summer, like we asked him to.
"Behind him, we have kind of a mixture, but if I was forced to give a pecking order I would probably go with Brandon Bolden right now. He's been doing really well grasping the offense and learning what to do. He plays with high intesnity. After that, you've got to go with three guys who are virtually tied - Derrick Davis, Enrique Davis and Devin Thomas. They are all doing good things and Brandon is only a fraction ahead of them at this point. They all bring something different to the table and all have some strengths."
To pick at that quote just a second, Nix was asked what has been the difference in ball security with Eason.
"I think the biggest thing is that he's more conscious of taking care of the ball. He now understands you have to think about that first," Nix assessed. "We are putting trust in him to carry the ball and with that trust comes the responsibility that he can't give it up. He has also worked on it a lot and we work on ball handling every day in practice."
Enrique came to Ole Miss under the scrutiny of high expectations. He's done nothing to damper those expectations, but Nix says learning how to play on this level is a process.
"He's handled the expectations well and has been patient. Every time you reach another level you basically have to start over. He's got tremendous talent, but he's got things to learn, like all freshmen," Derrick said. "The only difference between him and Brandon right now is that Brandon was here one more summer session than Enrique and that made a difference in his learning curve.
"Enrique has tremendous talent, but he's only practiced a week, so patience is called for."
Nix gave his opinions of the different styles of the three rookies.
"I see Brandon as a downhill slasher. He's compact, he can cut, he can make you miss, he can run over you and he catches the ball well out of the backfield. He's also very smart and has all the tools you are looking for," said Nix. "Enrique has speed and size and is probably more of a power runner than Brandon, but he can also take it to the house once he gets in the clear. He's going to break a tackle almost every carry.
"Devin is more of a speed guy. He's going to get to the edge a little more. He's not as big as the other two, but he's got some power too. He has excellent speed and vision and he's very, very smart. He picks up everything in the pass game and the run game."
If you haven't seen them but a little bit, you might think Bolden and Davis are very similar, but Nix sees subtle differences.
"They are a lot alike, but Brandon has a little more finesse where he can pick and slide and make a guy miss more often where Enrique would rather lower his shoulder and run the guy over and then take it all the way," Derrick stated. "All three have real good speed, but Brandon and Enrique are better inside runners and Devin is a little better on the outside."
Nix said he has not been around a better group of young backs in his coaching career.
"I told Coach (Houston) Nutt yesterday that we don't have a bad back on the team, in my opinion," he continued. "I think all of them are solid and I think they all give us something we can use."
Nix said he is surprised how all his backs are playing without the ball, i.e., pass protection.
"We ask a lot of our backs in pass protection, but they have picked things up well. Brandon and Devin, in particular of the young guys, have picked that facet of the game up very well and Enrique is also starting to get the hang of what we want," Derrick added. "They are well beyond their years in that duty."
The fullback slot is also in good hands, according to Nix.
"Jason Cook does everything we ask of him and more. He's a pleasure to coach and a really good football player. I also like what Andy Hartmann is doing in a backup role," Nix said. "We are very pleased with the camp they have had to this point."
Nix calls RBs 'solid'
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