The Finisher

With wild cats and triple options all the rage, traditional running styles have become virtually extinct throughout college football. Read about it inside

True 1,000 yard rushers are rare gems this day and age, further proving the significance of such workhorses as former Ole Miss running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

The trendy use of multi-back systems has become the norm, as keeping a varied rotation of different runners has proven more efficient, while remaining equally productive.

That rushing style hasn't skipped the city limits of Oxford, as Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt has molded an effective ground attack that finished the regular season ranked third in the Southeastern Conference.

"I've been very pleased with our running game," said Nutt. "Our offensive line really started to move the pile at the end of the season. Our backs ran hard and you could see their confidence grow with the more carries they got."

While the Rebels feature a stable of running backs that touch the ball each Saturday, one in particular has continually held his own this season.

Junior Cordera Eason entered 2008 as the only Rebel rusher with any true gametime experience. While limited with few carries during his first two seasons, the Meridian native was still looked upon to shoulder the rushing load early.

The transition to starter wasn't easy however, as Eason struggled to adjust to the grind that comes with being the team's featured back.

"At the beginning of the season, I was still adjusting to the speed of the game," he said. "But the further we got into the season, the more mature our entire offense became. That made things easier for me. I tried to hit the holes they would make for me, instead of missing them like I did earlier in the season."

Despite being assigned the starting position in spring practice, Eason was frequently written off by outsiders as one to merely keep the seat warm for the trio of incoming running backs signed by Nutt and Co.

However, the junior would never relinquish his starting role, while only getting stronger as the regular season drew to a close.

"When Cordera got comfortable with the offense, he really improved," said offensive coordinator Kent Austin. "He's very coachable and works very hard. He really cares about being good. We expect our guys to get better as the year goes on and play more mature. Cordera did that."

With his maturity level rising, Eason began to run with more authority. In doing so, the coaching staff started to rely on No. 25 to finish games (a la a Marion Barber-type closer).

"It's always good when the coaches rely on you when it's crunch time," Eason said. "It makes you feel like they trust you and have faith in you. It makes me feel real good that they depend on me to kill the clock. I love it."

Eason's ability to grind out clock will surely be utilized in Dallas, as Texas Tech presents one of the more potent offensive machines in the country. The Red Raiders rank second in the Big 12 in scoring offense, averaging more than 44 points per game.

"Texas Tech is going to score regardless," Eason explained. "We have to keep our defense off the field as much as possible and control the clock as much as we can. We're going to do our best to make it a shootout."

While the January 2nd matchup may prove to be of the high scoring variety, Ole Miss has proven capable of putting up points in bunches - the Rebels rank third in the SEC in total offense.

But if the game is close and time of the essence, the coaching staff can simply call on Cordera, their closer, to ride them to victory.


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