Editor's Note: In the next few days, we will publish a position-by-position breakdown with each assistant football coach on the recently concluded spring training session. These stories were published in our Grove Bowl issue that was handed out last Saturday. We have updated any depth chart changes since the stories were originally written last week.
Ole Miss Running Backs Coach Frank Wilson feels like a kid in a candy store with a crisp, new hundred dollar bill this spring.
"We are ahead of where we were last year at this time and we are continuing to make progress," said Wilson. "The reason I feel we are ahead of last year's pace is because our backs are more versatile this year.
"My guys can run inside or outside, can catch the ball out of the backfield and are pretty good blockers. We seem to have more well-rounded RBs than we did last year. Even though Mico (McSwain) missed a lot of spring ball due to injury, when he was out there with us early on, he had improved his inside running and blocking, which made him a more complete back than he was when he was first moved there last summer.
"It's like that across the board – all our guys have the versatility we are looking for."
Wilson's not saying the Rebel RBs are ready to take on the world, but he is saying they can attack the world from different angles this year and were limited in doing that last year.
"Last year, we had one who was a good outside runner, one who was a good inside runner, one who caught the ball well but lagged in other areas. This year, we have more do-it-all guys," he explained. "I think defenses were able to hone in on our personnel groupings last year based on the strengths of individual backs. I don't think they will be able to in 2006."
The following is a breakdown of the depth chart and Wilson's comments on each player:
Tailback – BenJarvus Green-Ellis – Junior, 5-11, 212 – "BenJarvus brings a wealth of experience and maturity to our unit, but more importantly he brings toughness to the table," Wilson began. "He'll hit it up in there against anyone and gets a lot of yards after initial contact. He's an all-around back with good hands and he's a physical blocker. BenJarvus understands the scheme and makes very few mental mistakes. He's working very hard to be the best he can be. I'm very pleased with what he's doing and have high expectations for him in his remaining two years of eligibility."
Mico McSwain – Sophomore, 6-1, 205 – "It is unfortunate he was injured in spring and missed the last two weeks, but he was very productive up until then," Frank noted. "He had improved his inside running and blocking. He's always been an excellent outside runner and receiver. Mico is, as everyone saw last year, a home run threat. I expect him to continue where he left off when August practice rolls around. I think Mico and BenJarvus compliment each other well."
Hiram White – Junior, 5-10, 185 – "Hiram is an extremely hard worker who makes the most of his opportunities. He will provide valuable depth to our TB position," Wilson continued. "For his size, he's tough between the tackles and he doesn't mind mixing it up. I think he will be a valuable part of our special teams too."
Bruce Hall – Junior, 6-0, 210 – "We moved Bruce from quarterback to tailback because of his athletic ability and he has not disappointed us. He's new to the position and has a lot to learn, but he's shown some natural instincts for running the ball and he's tough," said Frank. "He's also a very unselfish player. He should give us more quality depth at TB and might figure in on special teams due to his athleticism."
Fullback – Jason Cook – Sophomore, 6-0, 240 – "Jason was doing an excellent job until he was injured in last Saturday's scrimmage," said Wilson. "He's very knowledgeable and smart. He makes very few mental errors and has improved quite a bit since last year because he made a commitment in the weight room. He's bigger, stronger and faster than he was a year ago. He's a steady player for us in a position that needs to be steady. He will also help us on special teams."
Seth Michaelson – Junior, 6-0, 240 – "Seth is a try-hard kid who is still picking his way through learning a new system. He's tough and willing, but he's got to work on his assignments and get them down," Wilson closed. "He also is competing for the deep snapper job."
Our Take: BenJarvus and Mico should provide the Rebels with a very good one-two punch at tailback, if Mico stays there. Coach Ed Orgeron said in his postgame press conference that he wants Mico and BenJarvus on the field at the same time as much as possible and if signee Cordera Eason was as good as they anticipate, McSwain would be moved to wide receiver. That makes sense to us. If McSwain stays at TB, however, the Rebs will have two go-to guys at that position. As Wilson noted, their ability to "do it all" will be valuable. BenJarvus will not wow you with blazing speed, but he has an extra gear when he needs it and he's a smart, tough, experienced runner who will produce. Not being a one-dimensional back will enhance Mico's effectiveness substantially. Hiram and Bruce will be competent backups who won't "scare" you when they are in the lineup. Both have shown they can deliver the mail when they get the ball in their hands, but as of right now they aren't in Green-Ellis or Mico's strata. Cook will be more than adequate in the new offense, that relies heavily on the blocking of the fullback, and he's also adept at sneaking out of the backfield to catch a few passes. With the addition of a couple of signees, the stable of running backs will be talented and very capable.
The following are comments from some of the Rebel players and Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner after…