Recruiting services are generally good at what they do, which is finding and ranking high school prospects.
But they aren’t perfect.
Every now and then we get reminded of this when someone unranked, or ranked really low, ends up breaking out.
Ole Miss running back Quinshon Judkins is a prime example of this. Virtually every recruiting service seems to have missed in a big way when ranking him coming out of high school.
According to 247Sports, Judkins was a three-star prospect and was only ranked 29th in his home state of Alabama. He was also ranked as the 53rd-best running back prospect in his class.
Look at Rivals.com. While they appear to be a little more accurate, they also seem to have underrated him. Rivals had him ranked as the 21st-best prospect in Alabama, and the 26th-best running back prospect.
According to ESPN, Judkins didn’t come close to sniffing their Top 300 in the class of 2022.
One reason for the lack of love from these services could have potentially been based on his size. Standing at 6-0, 205 coming out of high school, he was a bit undersized, especially when you look at other SEC running backs.
Even with the slightly small frame, Judkins managed to put up 2,613 yards rushing and 41 TDs over his last two years at Pike Road High School (AL). This production, and leading his team to back-to-back 11-win seasons, makes the miss from the services a bit hard to believe.
While he wouldn’t be the number one recruit coming out of the 2022 class, he would certainly be ranked higher than he was.
Judkins’ Freshman Year At Ole Miss
He’s only been at Ole Miss for one season, but he made certain to make a splash upon his arrival.
During his freshman year in Oxford, Judkins led the SEC in rushing yards, piling up 1,567 yards on the ground.
Now, it is also worth pointing out that he also had more carries than anyone in the conference, with 274. However, he still ranked in the top 10 in Yards Per Carry, averaging a little more than five-and-a-half yards on every attempt, which is more than respectable.
He also did all of that while sharing the backfield with Zach Evans, a sixth-round pick in this year’s NFL draft.
For his part, Evans carried the ball 144 times, picking up 936 yards, good for six-and-a-half yards per carry. That put him tied atop the conference, sharing the top spot with Arkansas’ Raheim Sanders.
All of that is by way of pointing out that Judkins managed to lead the SEC in rushing while sharing the backfield with another one of the better running backs the conference had to offer.
And he did it all as a freshman.
That could explain this picture of Lane Kiffin at the Alabama 5A State Title Game in 2022.
this picture from last December of Lane Kiffin sitting alone in the cold metal bleachers of a high school football game watching Quinshon Judkins play makes a lot more sense now pic.twitter.com/ISFtT8rUvv
— We Run the Sip (@OMRebelNation) September 6, 2022
Do We See A Repeat Performance In His Sophomore Season?
Nothing in life is guaranteed, but it’s hard to imagine Judkins’ performance falling off this season.
While the Ole Miss starting quarterback position is still open, whoever ends up winning the job is certainly going to be talented.
On top of that, backup running back Ulysses Bentley IV is returning this season. While he only saw limited snaps last season, he made the most of them. Appearing in six games, he carried the ball 16 times, averaging four-and-a-half yards per carry. That won’t make him a star, but it does make him an adequate backup behind Judkins. And being able to give Judkins a few plays off every game could be huge in terms of keeping him healthy in the long term.
With the returning talent, a top-25 overall recruiting class (high school and transfer portal), according to 247Sports, and a Lane Kiffin-led offense, there’s no question that Judkins should continue to be a common name amongst football fans.
There is one concern, though.
Marquel Blackwell’s Departure
Marquel Blackwell, Ole Miss’ running backs coach last season, left this off-season. After only being in Oxford for one season, he decided to take the same position with Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M.
In his one year at Ole Miss, the Rebels ranked third nationally in rushing, as well as leading the SEC in rushing. Prior to his brief stint at the school, Ole Miss had a solid rushing attack, but nothing like what we saw last season.
In Kiffin’s previous two seasons at Ole Miss, prior to Blackwell arriving, their rushing attack never ranked higher than 12th nationally.
The impact Blackwell’s departure may have is yet to be seen, but it’s easy to imagine it could be large.
Either way, one thing’s for sure. We’re going to find out whether Judkins’ success was connected to Blackwell, Kiffin’s system, or a combination of both.
Photo courtesy: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports