COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 11 Ole Miss at Georgia
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Many were shocked on Thursday to learn that Ole Miss running back Quinshon Judkins had entered the transfer portal. Judkins has been one of the most productive backs in the SEC the last two seasons, and Ole Miss is seen as a team primed to make a run at the College Football Playoff next season. Ironically enough, those predictions stem from the work Lane Kiffin and the Rebels have done acquiring talent in the portal.

So, why is Judkins suddenly available? I don't know! Perhaps he knows he has at least one season of college football left before he can leave for the NFL and is hoping to cash in for a year before doing so. At the same time, perhaps the Rebels don't have the funds available after their most recent portal shopping spree. Maybe he's tired after carrying the ball 545 times the last two years -- more than any other running back in the country -- and is looking for a place to share the load. Hell, maybe he just doesn't like Mississippi Punch! Whatever the reason, it seems Judkins will be playing elsewhere next year.

Where he'll be playing next season might not be as simple a question as it seems. It's possible Judkins already has a destination in mind, but it's just as possible the interest won't be as overt as you'd expect for a player who led the SEC in rushing in the 2022 season. To figure out where Judkins will play, first we must look at the player. Then, we'll look for teams that would likely be interested in his services.

The Player

Judkins led the SEC in 2022 with 1,565 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. In 2023, he finished second among running backs with 1,158 yards but still led the league with 15 rushing touchdowns. You immediately notice the 407-yard drop in total rushing yards, but it wasn't from a lightened workload. Judkins carried the ball 274 times in 2022 and averaged 5.71 yards per carry. This season, he toted the rock 271 times and averaged only 4.27. It's a significant decline in his efficiency.

SeasonRushesYardsYards Per RushRec. YardsYards Per Touch1st Down Rate















In fact, among 219 qualified running backs (those who averaged at least 6.25 carries per game), Judkins ranked 182nd in yards per carry. It's a drop that can't be dismissed by saying the offensive line wasn't as good this year because there isn't much statistical data to back the statement. One only needs to look at Judkins' teammates to see that.

Ulysses Bentley didn't have nearly as many carries, but he averaged 2.18 yards before contact. Matt Jones averaged 1.75. Judkins averaged only 1.06. Things weren't much different after contact; Bentley averaged 3.51 yards, Jones 4.83 and Judkins 3.21.

Some of this is volume. Judkins was the workhorse, and it's hard to maintain peak efficiency with a higher number of carries,  particularly when defenses may be more wary of your presence on the field than Bentley or Jones. When Judkins is in the backfield, there's a higher likelihood he'll be getting the ball. Defenses understand this and adjust accordingly.

Still, whatever the causes, there's no way you can look at Judkins' performance in 2023 and say he was a better player this season. And it's hard to reach a conclusive judgment on Judkins as a pass-catcher because Ole Miss doesn't throw to its backs as often as other offenses.

The Fit

Ole Miss mixes in a variety of runs, but over the last two seasons with Judkins, inside zone has been the primary mode of attack with power and counters thrown in as well. Outside zone has also made its appearance felt but more as a change of pace than a top option.

Judkins was at his best in inside zone in 2023. Of his 271 carries this year, 95 were on inside zone (4.6 per), 55 were power (4.2) and 39 were outside zone (4.4). As with nearly everything Judkins, he was far more effective in every scheme last year.

He's not entirely scheme-dependent, which opens up the field when it comes to finding a home. We can narrow that field with a few assumptions, however. First, I find it difficult to imagine Judkins would leave a playoff contender to join a team outside of contention. That means he's likely to end up in the SEC or Big Ten. Also, Judkins is an Alabama native and may want to stay closer to home. The wild card is the kind of role for which Judkins is looking. Does he want to continue as a workhorse, or would he prefer sharing the load more?

Logical Destinations

Alabama: The Crimson Tide will certainly be a playoff contender in 2023 if Judkins does want to return to his home state. Being paired with Jalen Milroe in the backfield could be appealing; defenses won't be able to key on Judkins so easily. Plus, the Tide have Justice Haynes and other backs that could leave Judkins with a lighter load. Finally, Notre Dame was a program that recruited Judkins out of high school, and one of the coaches leading the pursuit then was current Alabama offensive coordinator Tommy Rees.

Auburn: Another home-state option but one with more questions than Alabama. The future of Jarquez Hunter is unknown. I don't know how interested Auburn would be in Judkins if Hunter stays, and depending on how much of a workload Judkins desires, I can't say how interested he'd be in Auburn if Hunter leaves. Still, it's a spot worth keeping an eye on.

Florida State: The Seminoles are always active in the transfer portal and have a spot to fill with Trey Benson leaving for the NFL. However, while the fit seems natural from that perspective, the Seminoles were more of a counter-rushing attack than a zone. That's not to say teams or players can't adapt their approach, but it's not an obvious fit to me outside of FSU's portaling nature and the depth chart hole.

Michigan: If Judkins heads north, perhaps it'll be for Big Blue. Michigan has used the portal plenty to plug holes, and if it feels the need to add an experienced running back this offseason, Judkins makes sense. He fits from both the scheme and need perspective.

Tennessee: Jaylen Wright and Jabari Small have declared for the NFL Draft. While Dylan Sampson is considered the 2024 starter, the Volunteers could be interested in adding an experienced option. Scheme-wise, Judkins fits well with what Tennessee does in the run game.

Other potential landing spots: Miami, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas A&M