It hasn’t been long since Ole Miss running back Eric Swinney got back on the practice field following a stress fracture in his leg that sidelined him in 2015, but the redshirt freshman is already turning heads this spring.
There’s no denying the excitement coach Hugh Freeze and his staff have about Swinney’s potential, and after a year of waiting, they’re finally seeing flashes of a guy who can help Ole Miss’ run game.
“Feeling very good today,” Freeze said of Swinney to reporters on Monday. “Hasn’t gotten a ton of carries (since being cleared from injury), but today, he looked quick, powerful, strong and finished runs well. I liked what I saw.”
The 5-foot-9, 197-pounder was a four-star prospect coming out of Sandy Creek (Ga.) High School in 2015.
“He’s not scared to lay his head down and run someone over, and at the same time, he’s not scared to juke someone,” Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly said of Swinney, according to Parrish Alford of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. “He understands the game plan. It’s going to take longer for him to get the feel for the game, but he’s picking it up really well.”
Swinney joins returning running backs Akeem Judd and Jordan Wilkins in the Ole Miss backfield.
“I think all of our (running backs) are up (near) 200 pounds now, but (Swinney) seems to finish runs with a certain amount of authority for sure that we might not have seen has much in the past,” Freeze said. “That school he comes from is a physical, physical football team. They practice that way every day. (Former Ole Miss defensive back) Mike Hilton was from there.”
It remains to be seen how much Swinney will boost the Rebels’ rushing attack, but they could certainly use the help.
Ole Miss finished seventh in the SEC in rushing last season, averaging 183.1 yards per game. The Rebels’ top rusher, Jaylen Walton, has graduated. Judd and Wilkins combined for just 804 yards in 2015, so there will be plenty of opportunities for Swinney to get his opportunities.
“I always felt like if he got healthy that he had a chance to be a special kid,” Freeze said.
Check out Freeze’s full time with the media following Monday’s practice below, courtesy of Parrish Alford of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.