Though fair or not, the start for sophomore running back Enrique Davis' career hasn't exactly been what many predicted.
As the top prep player in the country out of Hargrave Military Academy, the expectations for the former five-star were through the roof upon arrival, with Davis supposed to climb the Ole Miss depth chart with relative ease.
But that hasn't been the case over his first 14 games in Red and Blue. In fact, in the Rebels' season opener against Memphis, Davis was relegated to third-team duties.
However, totaling 46 yards and a touchdown on six carries late in the fourth quarter, Davis made the most of his few opportunities. Even better, the 6-foot, 220-pounder showcased some added quickness and burst while suffering through flu-like symptoms.
"I feel like there's always room for improvement," he said. "I just tried to go out there and help the team out when I got my name called.
"Really before the game, my head was hurting, I was coughing a whole lot and my nose was running. It was just a bad feeling. Probably about that Friday or Saturday I was feeling it, but then it went away. I was fighting it. I kept taking medicines the doctors gave me and now I'm good."
Behind sophomore Brandon Bolden and senior Cordera Eason in the pecking order, finding playing time in the Rebel backfield has proved difficult for Davis.
The Lynn Haven, Fla., native saw action in 12 games last season, finishing with 244 yards and three touchdowns. But despite an impressive spring and gaining rave reviews by the coaching staff in fall camp, splitting carries has become the daily for a former Parade All-American.
"I don't really look at it like that," said Davis of his standing. "The way I see it is whenever (head) Coach (Houston) Nutt wants me to get in there, he's going to call my name."
With his showing against the Tigers, Davis' name is likely to be called much more according to Nutt.
"We'll see. We'll keep working the way we're working, but he'll definitely get some more reps," he said. "There's a place for him, as he runs hard. The way he ran in that fourth quarter, if he does that all the time, he's got a real place."
During the offseason, Davis committed himself to the weight room, focusing on flexibility and strength gain. That hard work was on display in the Bluff City, with Davis appearing more explosive than ever in mop-up work.
"(Strength and conditioning) Coach (Don) Decker did a whole lot of things in the offseason to help me with my flexibility," Davis said. "I'm happy about that. Going into the training room, my ankle was always hurting a little bit. It was something I tweaked at Hargrave. But I've gotten that back right.
"I really couldn't do a lot of the things I wanted to last year because of my ankle, but now I can make my cuts and everything. The coaches also helped me a lot in the offseason with my pass protection. I got a whole lot better at that, I feel like. I can't wait to be able to show that."
Though the transition to the college game hasn't gone quite according to script for Davis, the hard work put in over a rigorous offseason regimen is indeed paying off in 2009.
And while his impact has taken longer than first anticipated, the emergence of Davis is a welcomed sight for offensive coordinator Kent Austin and the Ole Miss offense.
"He's always run hard. He's one of the few guys on this team I wouldn't want to tackle," Austin said. "He's a downhill, hard-nosed runner who hits with his pads. He plays hard."
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