Experience Talking

Jaylen Walton is heading into his third year of college football. He’s been around. He knows what he’s seeing out there.

What he sees from the running back position, among other things, are depth and talent.

“The competition’s great. I like it,” said the junior from Ridgeway High School in Memphis who has seen action in all 26 games the Rebels’ have played since he’s been at Ole Miss. “We push each other every day.”

They have to. The backfield is loaded with players.

“We have different styles of backs,” said Walton, who rushed 113 times for 523 yards and six touchdowns in 2013 as a sophomore, while also serving as the team’s primary kick returner. “We pretty much are an all-around type running back group. I think everybody is good, honestly, and we’re all pushing each other to be the best we can be.”

Also competing in the backfield are his teammates – junior I’Tavius Mathers, who has significant collegiate experience like Walton does, sophomore Mark Dodson, redshirt freshman Jordan Wilkins, and junior Akeem Judd, among others.

It’s a group that basically all who have evaluated the 2014 Rebels feel is as solid as any unit on the team.

“We’re just all competing every day to make the team better. As long as we do our part, the offense will be fine,” Walton said.

As for himself, the experience factor definitely plays a role. Two years in college have helped him in this fall’s camp and heading into the season.

“Just be consistent, know my roles. Know my play calls, and know my assignments on running the ball or fitting certain blocking gaps. Just working on it all,” he said as he continues to improve overall. “I’m a lot more confident. I know more my role. If the ball comes to me, just make a play. If it doesn’t, then I still have to protect or be out on the pass. I’m just trying to play my role.”

Walton said other aspects of the Rebel offense are important for the running backs as well. It isn’t all about running the ball.

“We run the spread offense most of the time. When we’re not blocking or running, we have to be out doing a route or have to be in a certain position on the field to catch the ball,” said Walton, who caught 29 passes last season for 322 yards and two touchdowns. “I take pride in that. I consider myself an all-purpose back. I just want to make plays however my team needs me to.”

He also wants to lead, and he knows now in year three he needs to do that even more.

“It’s very different,” he admitted being a go-to guy as far as one of the leaders and someone younger players look up to. “Just learning from Jeff Scott and Randall Mackey, it’s pretty much trying to be a leader and lead these guys into the right direction.”

Walton said Dodson and Wilkins are stepping up their games, and Judd is a load to stop for a defense.

“Mark and Jordan, they’ve gotten a lot better,” Walton said. “Having a full spring and a full summer pretty much improved their game. They’re both going to be good running backs here.

“And out of all the running backs, I believe Akeem is the bruiser,” he continued. “He’s definitely the hard-nosed runner out of all of us. He’s really good and coming along learning all the plays and assignments. He’s picking it up well. He has speed and great hands. And also a bruiser. So he has the best of both worlds.”

Walton said that there are so many running backs is exciting and makes looking forward to the Boise State game that much more intense. But he also knows it’s one day at a time, and they cannot get ahead of themselves.

”There’s depth. We’re all pretty much young,” he said. “I played against Mark and I’Tavius and Jordan (in high school). All are good backs.

“We’re focused and accept it,” he continued, talking about getting ready for a game in two weeks. “Once we got here to camp, we needed to be focused on working hard and pushing each other and being the best running back group in the nation. That’s what we’ve tried to do.”

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