March 13, 2009

Rebs' Davis looking to become a complete back

Enrique Davis showed up last season with great expectations heaped upon him, the victim _ if you will _ of a closely-followed recruiting race.

His season, in some ways, went better than anyone could have expected. He played as a true freshman on a team that finished No. 14 in the country, winners of its last six games and champions of the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic.

However, Davis' Southeastern Conference debut had some twists and turns along the way. Davis was the Rebels' fourth leading rusher, his 244 yards trailing Dexter McCluster, Cordera Eason and fellow freshman Brandon Bolden.

"The way I look at it is I was just a freshman last year," Davis said earlier this week. "I've got plenty more years to go. I just have to go in there and prove that I'm ready to play. It would be different if we didn't have as many great backs as we've got. I think we have a lot of good backs. It's just a matter of who at practice really shows they want it more.

"If you go out there and have a good practice, you can expect to get playing time. If you go out there half-stepping and don't really try to practice, you can't really be disappointed if you don't see the field."

Davis, a Lynn Haven, Fla., native who chose the Rebels over Auburn, Tennessee and others, said the off-the-field requirements for success in the SEC caught him a bit off-guard last season. However, he feels he's addressed those areas and is ready to become a more complete running back as a sophomore.

"It was kind of different," Davis said. "Everybody's fast. It's the SEC, so it's a fast game and you have to catch on quick. Running the ball, I didn't really have a problem with that. It was more me learning other things in the playbook, studying in the offseason and getting better. I'm going into the spring and seeing how it goes.

"I have to get in that playbook more, learn a lot more and be a complete back. I don't want to just be good at a couple of things. I want to be good at everything. You have to be that NFL back. In high school, you really just run the ball and you might run a couple of five-yard outs. To be a complete back in college, you have to learn how to read defenses, protections, the routes, the check-down routes and all that stuff."

Physically, Davis appears to be in phenomenal shape. He's weighing 221 pounds, up about four pounds from his freshman campaign.

"I'm really trying to get in better in shape where I can keep my wind," Davis said. "That's what I'm really trying to work on. Of course, I'm trying to get faster, stronger, quicker and work on getting my plays and my protections and working on that real hard.

"I feel like I've gotten a lot more flexible, especially squatting. I feel like I've loosened up a lot more than I used to be."

Ole Miss opens spring drills on March 27, the first of 14 practices leading up to the April 18 Grove Bowl game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. McCluster said earlier this offseason that he will be working with the wide receivers this spring, meaning Eason, Bolden, Davis and Devin Thomas will be fighting to establish a pecking order before the Rebels' talented class of running back signees arrive this summer.

"I'm very excited," Davis said. "I think the whole team is ready for spring. It's football. I don't know a football player that likes sitting out of football for that long. A real player is ready to get back in there and play. There's something about that contact that just gets you ready and gets you right."

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