The Ole Miss football team will have many questions to answer in their week one matchup against the Memphis Tigers on Saturday.
The already young offensive line got younger in the absence of Alex Givens. He’s still limited in practice. The receiving corps is unproven and so is the entire defense.
The position group with the least worries is the running backs. The Rebel roster features one of the deepest and most talented group of running backs in the conference besides Alabama and Georgia. From top to bottom, the Rebel backfield can attack in every imaginable way.
Returning from a breakout season ruined by energy is the feature back, Scottie Phillips. The senior’s name is plastered on all kinds of preseason watch lists and he’ll claim most of the carries as the most experienced back in the room.
It’s the reserves that make this position group so versatile for the Rebels. Rich Rodriguez has three other backs at his disposal that can make big plays in any situation. Jerrion Ealy is the young shining star of the offense and the last piece to be added to the mix during the summer. The former five-star recruit is already the most vocal of the backs and says he’s game ready.
Snoop Conner is a freshman that didn’t get as much attention as Ealy to start, but a breakout performance in the Grove Bowl turned heads. Fast forward to fall camp and Conner is taking handoffs with the second team. The Hattiesburg native’s stocky frame is similar to Phillips’s, giving the Rebels another option in short-yardage situations.
Isaiah Woullard rounds out the backs and is expected to see the field a lot this week. Woullard showed sparks of utility last season as a backup. These backs, all from Mississippi, provided a four-headed monster beside Matt Corral.
“Right now we know Scottie is the main back and we’ll all get rotated in,” Ealy said. “Coach (Derrick) Nix is probably going to go with the guy with the hot hand.”
Each back will have an opportunity to produce in the new up-tempo offense as Rich Rodriguez has historically emphasized the run game in his scheme. As the no-doubt leader of the group, Phillips leads by example.
“I love it. We bring a lot of different options to the table,” Ealy said. “We’ve got four backs that can go out and compete and probably get a starting job at any other SEC school so it’s wonderful to have three other guys.”
Ealy will play a similar role to Tylan Knight hoping to add another dimension to the game plan. The freshman will be asked to contribute heavily almost immediately.
“Look to get me the ball in space. That’s all I know,” he said. “ Sometimes they ask me to get in the slot a little bit, get in the back and return punts, return kicks, that’s about it. I am a man that lives by going out and play hard and God will take care of everything.”