Nov 23, 2013; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi Rebels running back I'Tavius Mathers (5) advances the ball during the game against the Missouri Tigers at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Missouri Tigers defeat the Mississippi Rebels 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss Football 2014 Position Previews - Running Back

The 2014 Ole Miss football season is just around the corner. Here at Ole Hotty Toddy, we want to bring you the most coverage you can find to get you prepared for the upcoming season. In this article series, we are going to take an in depth look at each position for the Ole Miss Rebels. We are going to cover what happened with each position in 2013, the impact players of each position, and the future of each position. Hope you enjoy!

Yes, we are starting to get deep into the position previews, we are just two articles away (including this one) of rounding up the offensive positions. In this article, we are going to take a look at the running back position. It is a position that started to plague the Ole Miss Rebels midway through the 2013 season. We are going to look at what happened with this position in 2013, what has been shaping up this offseason, what to expect in 2014, and the future of the position.

In 2013…

In what was the final season for starting senior running back Jeff Scott. After the first couple of games of the season it looked as though Scott was well on his way to a monumental season. He started the season with an amazing 75-yard game winning touchdown run in the season opener against Vanderbilt. In week 3 against Texas, Scott would once again pull off an amazing run, this time a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown leading the Rebels to a dominating win over the Longhorns in Austin.

Sep 7, 2013; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi Rebels running back Jeff Scott (3) prepares to receive a punt during the game against the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mississippi Rebels defeated the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks 31-13. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Midway through the season, Jeff Scott would suffer a painful thigh bruise that took him along time to recover. He would not see much action again until late in the regular season – in the home game against Missouri. Even then, Scott still did not seem the same. In what could have been easily a 1,000+ rushing yard season for Jeff Scott, he finished not even half of those numbers, with 493 total rushing yards on the year, behind both I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton who both picked up where Scott left in the middle of the season.

Both Mathers and Walton stepped up when they were needed as early as the Texas A&M and LSU games. In the game against LSU, Walton stood out the most, with a career-high 106 rushing yards in the game and picked two rushing touchdowns, and helped lead the Rebels in one of the biggest SEC upsets of the 2013 season, with a 27-24 win over the top-10 ranked LSU. Mathers’ breakthrough game would come a week later in the game against Idaho. Mathers would rush for a carer-high 138 yards, including a highlighted 64-yard touchdown run against the Vandals.

I’Tavius Mathers would go on to lead the Ole Miss Rebels in total rushing yards in 2013 with 563 yards on the season. He would average almost six yards a carry and added three rushing touchdowns on the season. Mathers notably performed well in the Rebels win over Georgia Tech in the 2013 Music City Bowl. He would post a career-high five receptions for 49 receiving yards and rushed for 51 yards on 14 carries.

Jaylen Walton finished second for the Rebels in total rushing yards with 523 yards on the season. Walton would also finish tied for first on team with six total rushing touchdowns. It was really the LSU game where Walton made his biggest highlights of the 2013 season, but he also notably played well in the games against Texas A&M, Arkansas, Troy, and the Music City Bowl against Georgia Tech.

Mark Dodson, who was a 4-star prospect coming into 2013 and was apart of the historic 2013 Ole Miss recruiting class, made his collegiate debut in the game against Southeast Missouri. Dodson would see action again in the game against Idaho and showed Rebel fans the future of the run game at Ole Miss. In the game against the Vandals, Dodson rushed seven times for 57 yards, and scored his first career touchdown from 30-yard pass from Barry Brunetti. Dodson finished his freshman year with 124 total rushing yards.

During The Offseason

Jeff Scott would go on to depart to the NFL undrafted to the Cincinnati Bengals. Now, Coach Hugh Freeze will be looking to fill the shoes of Scott. It looks as the starting roles could be going to Mathers or Walton. Mathers performed the best of any of the backs in the 2014 Grove Bowl. Mark Dodson has also played exceptionally well during spring practices and should see more playing time in the 2014 season at running back.

During the offseason, Freeze made some changes with his running backs. The biggest change was taking sophomore Kailo Moore off the running back position and offense all together. He put Moore on defense, trying him out at defensive back to fill in depth. Moore has proven he is very talented on defense during spring practices and could see some big starts on defense in the 2014 season. His experience will be invaluable for the young secondary.

Oct 26, 2013; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi Rebels running back Kailo Moore (4) advances the ball during the game against the Idaho Vandals at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mississippi Rebels win the game against the Idaho Vandals with a score of 59-14. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Some redshirted players from 2013 also have shown tremendous talent this offseason. Jordan Wilkins and Eugene Brazley, who were both redshirted in 2013, have shown their toughness during spring practices and could battle Walton, Mathers, and Dodson for some playing time in the 2014 season. During the annual spring game, Wilkins scored and rushed for 26 yards. Brazley seems to have fully recovered from his torn ACL from a year ago during practice in July. Brazley performed exceptionally well in the 2014 Grove Bowl and was noted being a favorite of coaches from the game.

There is also hype of newcomer Akeem Judd. Judd was rated a 3-star JUCO prospect who signed with Ole Miss on National Signing day. Judd is a good size back, standing in at 6ft., 220 lbs., with explosive power and speed that has been witnessed in his highlight videos. Judd could see playing time early in the 2014 season and play role in the rotation of the running backs.

In 2014…

It is good to see the Ole Miss Rebels have built up depth in the run game this offseason. I believe it is clear that I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton will see some starts in the 2014 season. But, if Eugene Brazley and Jordan Wilkins can show some good in-game performances, you can’t rule them out of getting some quality playing time. I do expect to see more playing from Mark Dodson. Last season, Dodson did not coming into games until the win was insight and it was against an easy team – like Idaho. From what Dodson has shown during spring practices, he could come into games during important situations against big SEC teams.

Oct 19, 2013; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi Rebels running back Jaylen Walton (6) advances the ball during the game against the LSU Tigers at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mississippi Rebels defeat the LSU Tigers 27-24. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

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The Future…

Eric Swinney is a 4-star prospect from Sandy Creek, Georgia. He committed to Ole Miss May 16, 2014. Swinney is rated the 10th all-purpose back going into the 2014 season and could easily break the ESPN Top-100 going into the 2015 National Signing Day. Swinney has exceptional speed and is really good at breaking tackles. Building size will be a factor for him going into 2015. Right behind Swinney in 2016, is 4-star prospect Justin Conner from North Panola, Mississippi. Conner committed to Ole Miss on August 16, 2013.

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