Wilkins Returns to Field as Rebels Pad Running Back Depth
Aug. 18, 2017

by Brian Scott Rippee, OleMissSports.com 

Doubt flooded into Jordan Wilkins’ head 11 days ago in practice when he made a cut during a drill, felt a sharp pain in his knee and limped off of the field.

“Please don’t let it be bad,” Wilkins recalled thinking. “I’ve come a long way and trained my tail off. I was just hoping it wasn’t anything serious.”

He was ineligible for the 2016 season and has been waiting for nearly a year now to get back into game action. Luckily for him, it was just a minor sprain and he’s since returned to practice.

“I was a little stressed the last couple of days,” Wilkins said. “I am just happy to get back out there with the team and get rolling. i just cut and had a little sprain and a little bruising around my knee. That is all it was.”

Wilkins rejoined a running back group that boasts four or five guys that will likely see carries in a game. Running backs coach Derrick Nix remembers how quickly injuries can tear into a depth chart and is pleased to have a stable of options to choose from.

“After that first quarter last year against Florida State when Eric Swinney went down, all of a sudden we are down to the bottom of the deck on the depth chart,” Nix said. “I think it is a lot better. They’re all competing at a high level and pushing each other.”

Nix has tried to implement a more physical mindset among his running backs in Phil Longo’s system, with an emphasis on running downhill.

“I think it is something we have always preached,” Nix said. “It has become more of a mindset now. It comes with time and more maturity.”

If the Rebels were to play a game tomorrow, Nix said he felt comfortable playing four guys with Wilkins clearly being the starter.

“I trust them assignment-wise and ability-wise,” Nix said. “I think the guys have proven in different scenarios that they can protect the football and protect the quarterback in the passing game.”


 

 

Nix seemed confident in Wilkins’ ability to be a workhorse back with 20 carries a game if need be. Wilkins agreed.

“I am definitely ready, Wilkins said. “This is what I have been trying to train my body and my mind more for about a year and a half now. I am ready to take whatever my role is and run with it.”

Eugene Brazley, D’Vaughn Pennamon and D.K. Buford were the three guys Nix mentioned could go behind Wilkins, with Buford taking Swinney’s slot at the moment because he is dealing with a head injury. Nix described him as day-to-day.

He pointed out there is no particular order among the three behind Wilkins and it is going to depend on the game and scenario as to who comes in behind him.

“Every one of those backs all brings something different to the table,” Nix said. “It will just depend on what we need at the time.”

Wilkins and Swinney weren’t the only Rebels banged up as Ole Miss churns through the the heart of fall camp, now 14 practices in.

D.D. Bowie, Ty Quick and Greg Little all returned to the practice field after dealing with nagging injuries. Qaadir Sheppard was on the training bike on Friday and Benito Jones did not practice, but should return early next week.  Defensive line coach Freddie Roach said that both Jones and Sheppard should be fine and expects them to be ready to go for the season opener against South Alabama on Sept. 2.

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