OXFORD, Miss. – last season, Ole Miss topped the Southeastern Conference in rushing and was led by Jerrion Ealy, Snoop Conner, Henry Parrish and Matt Corral.
With all four of those players gone this year, the obvious conclusion might be the Rebels’ run game will be much worse in 2022.
Not so fast, my friend.
A couple of holdovers from last year’s 10-win team along with a pair of notable transfers and a pair of incoming freshmen has the Rebels not thinking that way.
Yes, SEC, Ole Miss might have as much — if not more — talent on the backfield this season.
Kentrel Bullock spirit Isaiah Woollard return to the Rebels’ backfield, and they are joined by TCU transfer Zach Evans spirit Ulysses Bentley IV who transferred from SMU. Along with those four runners, freshmen Quinshon Judkins spirit Matt Jones are also in camp.
“I think it (the rushing attack) can be the best in the country,” Evans said after practice Friday.
“I think it could be great, I mean that’s what we’re working for. I think Ole Miss led the SEC in rushing last year, right? I expect to do it again.“
Ole Miss RB Zach Evans
Evans was limited to only six games with the Horned Frogs due to injury but averaged 108 yards rushing per game. This week, before even taking a snap with the Rebels, Pro Football Focus named him a preseason third-team All-American.
Praise for Judkins
Both Evans and Bentley have praise for all the running backs, but Judkins – a true freshman from Alabama’s Pike Road High School – has impressed the veterans.
“He’s literally the most improved (since the spring) in the room,” Evans said.
“Like for him to be 17 (years old) that’s crazy. That boy’s explosive, he’s got a stiff arm on him, he’s got a bright future.“
Zach Evans on Quinshon Judkins
Bentley, who ran for 1,559 yards and 15 touchdowns for the Mustangs in three years, agrees with his new teammate.
“Judkins, he’s going to be good,” Bentley said. “He is going to be a good running back for a while. I mean he runs real hard so it’s competitive in the room so I got to get going too.”
Praise for the O-line, too
While speaking with the media after Friday’s practice, both Evans and Bentley showed their intelligence. Each heaped praise on the Ole Miss offensive line.
“I think they’re great, all of them from the left tackle to the right. They put in hard work, we’re here every day. Just here putting in the work, I’m proud of them boys.“
Zach Evans on the Ole Miss O-line
The veteran-laden offensive line is something that factored in Bentley’s decision to transfer to Oxford and since his arrival, he has been even more impressed with the offensive front.
“The offensive line they work real hard,” Bentley said. “It’s kind of easy to get behind those guys and just run through the line and stuff, like so I like it.”
Talented RB room working hard
The transfer duo is also smart enough to know they are only a part of the running back corps, and they know they are surrounded by talent in the backfield.
“The whole room deserves their props from Kentrel on down from Matt,” Bentley said. “Look for Matt Jones, Kentrel Bullock, all of them have been working.”
They have been working on preparing for the season and to improve on the league’s best running attack from a year ago. The first chance to show off the new backfield comes Sept. 3 against Troy.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series .
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.