Ankle Not Slowing Wilkins as Rebels Prepare For Senior Night
Nov. 15, 2017
By Brian Scott Rippee, OleMissSports.com
The thick, bulky layer of tape on Jordan Wilkins' right ankle is the only visible sign the senior running back shows of being hampered by an injury. For most of the season, he's battled the painful lingering effects of a dinged up ankle and a torn plantar fascia. One would not know it from talking to him.
"I try not to think about it too much when I am out there," Wilkins said. "I just try to play and whenever I tweak it, I may run off the field to let it chill out for a minute and come back in. But I am not limited on any carries or anything. Whatever the team needs me to do, I am going to do it."
Both Wilkins and Matt Luke agreed the senior running back has never been limited in the number of touches he gets, but that shouldn't underscore the pain Wilkins has played through in a season in which the team as a whole has had many opportunities to pack it in.
"It just depends," Wilkins said. "Someone could fall on it or it may hurt when I cut a certain way. It is definitely getting a lot stronger. I don't really know how many times it happens a game. It is getting better."
When asked to give a percentage of health, Wilkins said it is close to 100 but not quite. It hasn't shown in the numbers though. Wilkins has run for at least 85 yards in four of his last five games, going over 100 yards on the ground in three of those. He's totaled 754 yards on 122 carries on the season. His coach attributed it to Wilkins' desire as well as the quarterbacks making good decisions on run-pass option plays.
"Usually with the RPO's you're handing the ball of into a good look to run the ball in, hence the six-yard average, so just the marriage of the offense and everything coming together along with him playing inspired football," Luke said. "He has played really well and caught the ball out of the backfield too. I think it is a combination of a lot of things."
Wilkins admitted part of it is due to having to sit out a year ago. He had to watch for 12 games without being able to suit up. It ate at him and drove him to not take anything for granted.
"Definitely," Wilkins said. "It opened my eyes a lot to how much this game means to me and fulfilling my role on this team. Just doing the best job I can.
"I think it just took a couple of games to figure out who we are," Wilkins said. "I think we are doing some more down-hill, physical running and it has suited us well."
The veteran also understands the little things that it takes to win games like picking up blitzes and blocking in the passing game.
"I think he has a good feel for how much he can play," Luke said. "If he is healthy, we want him out there. Not only is he running the ball well and catching it well, it is some of the things you don't see. Picking up blitzes. He had a big time blitz pick up on the two minute drive at Kentucky. He had a big blitz pick up there there. It is the little things an experienced back gives you."
Saturday's game against Texas A&M will be Wilkins' last ever appearance in Vaught-Hemingway stadium. He'd like to make it a memorable one.
"I want to go out with a big one," Wilkins said. "Just for all of the seniors and the coaches. We will be ready."
The team practiced in pads for the first half of practice on Wednesday, but took them off for the second. Luke knows it is about staying fresh this time of year.
"We are trying to get prepared and get our work done, but also keep them fresh with two games in the next week coming up," Luke said. "Trying to take care of the guys but thought the spirit has been good."
He will need to be particularly wary of that considering the Rebels have two games in a span of five days with the Egg Bowl being on Thanksgiving night.
"You just have to do the best you can," Luke said. "You can't do a whole bunch of pads and all of that. It is a lot more mental work and getting the guys back recovered. Again, part of it is it being this late in the season just trying to keep their bodies fresh through this weekend and next week."
Kickoff against the Aggies on Saturday is set for 6 p.m.
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