Sharing carries not a problem for unselfish Ole Miss running backs
Though its ground game was a bit of a question mark during the offseason, one thing is certain: the Ole Miss running back unit is about as unselfish a group of young men as you will find in college football.
The Rebels used five different running backs in Saturday’s season-opening 76-3 home victory over UT-Martin and finished the game with 388 yards on 36 carries. Senior running back Jaylen Walton scored the game’s initial two touchdowns; the first coming on a one-play, 60-yard drive and the other following a four-yard scamper into the end zone which gave the No. 15/17 Rebels an early 13-0 lead.
Sophomore tailback Eugene Brazley and freshman back D.K. Buford each had rushing touchdowns of 70 and 20 yards against the Skyhawks late in the fourth quarter that sent the excited fans in attendance home with plenty to smile about on opening weekend. Brazley rushed for 88 yards on six carries and Buford gained 68 yards on four carries inside a sweltering Vaught-Hemingway stadium Saturday.
“I thought D.K. and Eugene (Brazley) played well,” Freeze said. “Eugene showed a burst, and he was really patient. He and D.K. are good at being patient. They have this stutter to them that can create a crease and allow them to get through it. I thought all five of them played very well.”
Unselfish backs not worried about who gets the carries
There are plenty of things for Rebels to be happy about this season, not the least of which is the unselfish attitude of their running backs.
Walton, Brazley, Buford, Jordan Wilkins, and Akeem Judd do not care who gets the most carries out of the backfield or who runs for the most yards. All the backs are concerned about is winning as a team and supporting one another when it’s the other’s time to take snaps with the offense.
But are there enough carries to go around to keep this gauntlet of running backs satisfied?
Wilkins, who had four carries for 36 yards Saturday, thinks so, and the sophomore from Cordova, Tenn. feels the unselfishness of the running backs will be a great benefit for the team as the season goes along. “We all like seeing each other do well, and I don’t think any of us are really greedy,” he said.
We all want to get in and do the best we can to help the team win, but like I have said, the coaches are going to put us in a good position. If the game plan is to run the ball a lot, then the carries will be spread out and whoever has a hot hand, will get the most carries that game.–Jordan Wilkins
Thanks in part to the four rushing scores, Ole Miss is No. 1 in scoring offense and No. 5 in total offense after a solid 662 total yard effort against UT-Martin.
Sticking together and pushing one another to excel
The unselfishness of the running backs didn’t just start in week one. The tight-knit running back group stuck together throughout the summer and into fall camp–and have held each other accountable at practice, truly bringing out the best in one another.
Akeem Judd, who rushed for 50 yards on 11 carries against the Skyhawks, said he thinks the Rebels have one of the best backfields in the Southeastern Conference, and D.K. Buford, who averaged 17 yards per carry on Saturday, concurred:
I would have to agree with Judd on that, because the competitiveness each and every day is just to the top. We always compete, even in practice, and try to do the best we can in practice with each other and are trying to excel. — D.K. Buford
Coach Freeze liked what he saw on Saturday from his stable of backs and commented the Rebels only had one negative play the whole game against UT-Martin. In addition to his praise for Buford and Brazley, Freeze also complimented the rest of his backs. “I thought Jaylen (Walton) was explosive. I thought Jordan (Wilkins) ran physically. I thought Akeem (Judd) was physical,” Freeze added. “I thought all five of them played very well.”
The Rebels will bring the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense into Saturday’s game against Fresno State at Vaught-Hemingway. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m., Oxford-time.
(Feature image credit: Bentley Breland, The Rebel Walk)