OXFORD, Miss. — The Ole Miss running backs have been described as the deepest position on the Rebels’ team—and with good reason.
Running backs coach Derrick Nix offered his assessment on the unit following practice Tuesday.
“I feel good where we’re at right now. I think the guys are progressing every week,” Nix said.
“Scottie (Phillips) has kind of been the lead guy, kind of the every-down back. We’ve given Jerrion (Ealy) some roles and packages so he can learn, and we can bring him along slowly. Same thing with Snoop Conner. And the guys are learning at a high rate and gaining more confidence every week,” Nix added.
Last Saturday against the Razorbacks, the Rebels ran for 237 yards. Senior starter Phillips led the way with 145 yards and two touchdowns on 26 attempts.
Phillips averaged 5.5 yards per carry against the talented front seven of Arkansas.
True freshman Conner rushed for 42 yards on eight carries for an average of 5.3 yards. Nix used the Hattiesburg (Miss.) native in the fourth quarter against the Razorbacks, helping keep Phillips fresh.
After practice Tuesday, Conner said he was pleased with his performance against his first SEC opponent.
“I felt pretty good,” said Conner. “It was the first game, so, hey, I just had to get into the groove, but I feel pretty good.”
Conner only carried the ball one time against Memphis in the Rebels’ first game of the season, but he was counted on much more heavily against the Hogs. “After that game (Memphis), they had told us we were going to get more carries and stuff,” Conner explained. “It just didn’t go that way in our first game.”
Coach Nix was asked if he thinks he needs to get Conner and Ealy involved more with the running game.
“At this point, I would say I want those two guys to be able to work every aspect of offenses like Scottie can, to understand protections like he does, especially in the run game and our sprint out game, and whatever else they’re called do. Right now, they’re not at that point, but eventually will be.”
Derrick Nix on Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner
With Ole Miss running the ball 68 percent of the time last week, Coach Nix addressed his expectations of the ground attack for the remainder of the season.
“I think we’d like to be in a position where we can run the football when they give us the right amount of numbers. We’d like to be able to run the football when everybody knows you have to—whether that’s a huge game explosion run or just keeping us on schedule.”
Coach Nix on expectations for Rebels’ ground game
Five-star athlete Ealy tallied 67 all-purpose yards against Arkansas—seven rushing, 35 receiving and 25 on kickoff returns. Nix commented on the talented player’s jump from fall camp to now.
“A huge jump,” he began. “I think he’s adjusted to the speed of the game. I think he’s adjusted to the physicality of it. And I think you’re going to see him continue to grow every week,” Nix explained.
“I think he’s getting more and more comfortable, and he’s not out there really thinking about what the plays are now. Now he knows what’s going on. He can start looking at defense and see what the adjustments are.”
Derrick Nix on Jerrion Ealy
Phillips currently leads the SEC in rushing touchdowns (3) and is second in the league in carries (45) on the season. Having very capable running backs behind Scottie Phillips will pay big dividends as the Rebels will be able to keep rotating players to ensure Phillips is fresh when the game is on the line.
(Video: Land Teller, The Rebel Walk)