The story has been told numerous times.
Junior Ole Miss Tailback Cordera Eason basically rode the bench for two years behind older backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis, now playing for the New England Patriots in the NFL, and Bruce Hall.
When they graduated, the door was supposed to be wide open for Eason to take over, but new Reb Coach Houston Nutt made it more challenging than Eason thought it would be when he signed three high school hot shot backs - Brandon Bolden, Enrique Davis and Devin Thomas - and opted, midway through the season, to move wide receiver Dexter McCluster to tailback to give that position more speed.
Cordera earned the starting nod, but tailback was more of a "by committee" situation, with all of them getting playing time. Bolden, who ended up with 544 yards rushing in his rookie regular season, was getting almost as many carries as Eason and Enrique was nipping at their heels for more playing time as well.
"I did OK in the early part of the season, but the Alabama game was kind of a low point for me. We lost a game we could have won and I was basically no factor," Eason noted. "I didn't wait for two years to play and then not take advantage of my opportunity."
The next week in practice, Eason reasserted himself and came out strong against Arkansas in, perhaps, the turning point in the season for the Rebels.
Behind a bruising line performance by the Rebel OL, Eason rushed for 81 yards on 19 carries, helping the Reb offense maintain balance and being a major part of a 23-21 victory in Fayetteville.
"I thought the Arkansas game was his breakout game, the game where we saw the real Cordera," said Rebel Running Backs Coach Derrick Nix. "Cordera was a bigtime back in high school and I think it dawned on him what he had to do to be a bigtime back in college in that game."
Nix saw things he hadn't seen from Cordera in the previous games.
"He took his game to another level. Cordera was breaking tackles, running downhill and running with more intensity," said Nix. "We said that was the back we had been waiting on."
Cordera continued that theme in the 17-7 win over Auburn with 104 yards on just 14 carries in another tough defensive game.
"One guy was not bringing him down in that game. Cordera was becoming the power back we wanted to feed the ball to. He averaged over 7 yards a carry against Auburn - that's hard to do," Derrick stated.
Another 100-yard performance followed against ULM.
"I felt I was getting in a groove," Eason said. "I could feel my confidence growing and things were falling in place in our run game."
Against LSU the following week in Baton Rouge in a convincing Rebel win, the Tigers stacked the line of scrimmage for most of the game, but when the Rebs tried to run some clock with a comfortable lead late in the contest, Eason ripped off some nice gains to help the Rebs seal the win in a strong fashion.
Cordera ended the year as the Rebs' leading rusher with 644 yards on 137 carries. He also caught 9 passes for 73 yards, including two TD snags. Eason was also the most effective blocker in pass protection.
"He had a good regular season once he turned it on and started letting loose more," Nix noted. "I was very pleased with the way he played his final five games. As I said, he was the back we had been waiting to emerge."
The Rebel ground game ended up with 2,201 yards with Cordera gaining roughly 30% of that.
"We gained about 1,700 yards from the tailback position, including the Wild Rebel formations. Overall, we were pleased with those numbers, but I expect a lot more next year," Nix stated.
Cordera, Nix believes, has only scratched the surface of his potential and he expects a lot more from him next season.
"Cordera can get stronger and faster in the offseason, but I want to see him do most of all is improve his balance. Sometimes he stumbles a little bit when he makes a cut and tries to make a defender miss, but he got a lot better at that late in the season," Nix closed. "If we can get him a little more agile and a little faster, there is no reason why he can't be a bigtime back."
Eason understands where he is now and where he needs to go in the next critical training months.
"You can never be too fast. Speed is a big goal of mine, but so is cutting ability," he ended. "I had a decent year this year, but I know I can do better and that will be my goal for my senior season."
Eason takes lead
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