Friday, March 30, 2012
Spring shoes to fill: Ole Miss
By Edward Aschoff
A lot is changing at Ole Miss, and the Rebels had to say goodbye to one of their best offensive weapons:
OUT: RB Brandon Bolden: He was one of the most productive running backs to play for Ole Miss. Bolden ended his career ranked second in school history in both total touchdowns scored (33) and rushing touchdowns (27), third in all-purpose yards (3,681), and fourth in rushing yards (2,604). Those numbers would be even higher if not for an ankle injury he suffered in the season opener against BYU. While he returned two weeks later from his slightly fractured ankle, Bolden was never really himself, as he rushed for just 472 yards and four touchdowns last fall. But when Bolden was healthy, he was easily the Rebels' most versatile player. He wasn't the most explosive running back but he was very consistent and could grind out the tough yards. He was very successful in the passing game, leading the team with 32 receptions in 2010. Bolden was also very productive without the ball in his hands. He was an excellent blocker and a key gunner on special teams. Inside the Rebels' locker room, Bolden was an outstanding leader, so replacing the multitasking Bolden won't be easy at all.
IN: Jeff Scott, Devin Thomas or Nicholas Parker: The Rebels only have three scholarship running backs to work with this spring. Scott was Ole Miss' leading rusher last season, gaining 529 yards on 116 carries. He was eighth in the SEC in all-purpose yards, averaging 101.4 yards per game. Scott's numbers would have been better if he had not been suspended for the last two games of the 2011 season. Scott is the top back the Rebels have, but he has to show more leadership skills and be more accountable. The coaches are being very careful with him this spring because he's worth so much to this offense and losing him to injury would severely hinder Ole Miss's offensive progress heading into the fall. Thomas, a senior, carried the ball just 20 times last season and although he isn't the fastest or more most gifted athlete, he's a very tough and consistent runner, and the coaches have been quite impressed with how good his hands have been. Parker has spent most of his time with Ole Miss' scout team, but will get regular reps at running back this spring. Parker had the size of a fullback at one point, but dropped around 20 pounds and the coaches have liked what they've seen from him, considering he has yet to play in a collegiate game.