Brandon Bolden was just your average high school football recruit, so said the experts.
The 5'11", 220-pound athlete from Scotlandville, LA, the grandson of former Kansas City Chief running back Frank Pitts, was rated three stars by Rivals.com and Scout.com.
During the summer before his senior year, Bolden camped at Auburn, LSU, Alabama, and Ole Miss. At the time, LSU and Auburn appeared to be his favorites. LSU looked to be where Bolden would end up, considering Baton Rouge was 20 minutes from Scotlandville.
Toward the end of the summer, as the Alabama coaching staff saw Bolden up close, Nick Saban saw potential. He offered on the spot. Ole Miss followed, but LSU never reportedly offered, nor did Auburn.
Bolden added plenty of other offers, which included Baylor, Southern Miss, Tulane, and Vanderbilt.
During his senior year at his local high school (Scotlandville Magnet), Bolden racked up 866 yards on 112 carries, adding 12 touchdowns in eight games. He also caught 26 receptions for 260 yards.
As Bolden's recruiting was winding down in November, Bolden narrowed his final two to Alabama and Ole Miss. The Louisiana back was torn between the two.
Then, it appeared Alabama might have an edge.
Ed Orgeron, coming off of a 3-9 season, was abruptly fired on Nov. 24, 2007.
However, the Ole Miss athletic department moved fast to bring a new head coach to Oxford. After Houston Nutt had resigned in Arkansas, the next day he was announced as the next Ole Miss head coach.
Bolden, at the Ole Miss camp, developed a good relationship with running backs coach Frank Wilson.
The bad news—Nutt decided to not retain Wilson to his current staff.
So what did this mean for Bolden?
As Houston Nutt scanned film to weed through Ed Orgeron's 2008 class, he saw Brandon Bolden's film and obviously liked what he saw. He told Bolden his offer was still valid at Ole Miss.
To make sure this is where he wanted to go, Bolden visited with his teammates Dallas Thomas and Prentiss Waggner days after Christmas.
Frank Wilson, however, wasn't going to give up. He accepted a job at Southern Miss and was coming strong for what he saw in Bolden. Bolden decided he would visit Ole Miss again and then Southern Miss during the final weeks of January and then make a decision.
As Bolden visited Ole Miss on Jan. 18, 2008, Enrique Davis, the No. 1 prep school player in the country and a five-star rated RB by Rivals.com, flew in to Oxford from Virginia after he decommitted from Auburn considering their new spread offense.
In the end, it didn't faze Bolden. Bolden committed to Ole Miss during the visit and told Frank Wilson he would cancel his visit to USM. Bolden was headed to Oxford.
Bolden, however, had some competition. A week after his commitment, Army All-American running back Devin Thomas committed to Houston Nutt and the Rebels, and on signing day, Enrique Davis shocked many by choosing Ole Miss over Auburn and Oregon.
The running back class for Ole Miss ended up at fourth in the nation according to Rivals.com. Add former four-star upcoming junior Cordera Eason to the mix, and the competition was stiff for the Rebs.
As Bolden graduated, he headed to Oxford to start summer sessions. Was a redshirt to come? Nutt had already stated he needed depth in the backfield, considering BenJarvus Green-Ellis's departure. In all likelihood, Nutt explained, all running backs signed might not receive a redshirt.
As summer sessions went on and workouts started, word got out to the public that Bolden was outshining other running backs in workouts.
As the first game arrived, Bolden was ready. At the end of the day of Ole Miss' convincing 41-24 opening victory over Memphis, Bolden was the leading rusher with 76 yards on eight carries and one touchdown.
From that point on, Ole Miss looked to see a star rise. Against Florida, he proved he was worthy, rushing for 55 yards on 13 carries. Against LSU, he didn't get many carries, but he did earn a touchdown in front of his hometown crowd in a 31-13 stomping victory over the Tigers.
It wasn't until the Cotton Bowl, however, that he broke out.
Bolden earned his first 100-yard game versus Texas Tech on 11 carries and added a convincing 17-yard touchdown run, what was probably the sealer, putting the Rebs up 38-21. He also added his career-long run of 44 yards in the Cotton Bowl as well.
Bolden received at least eight carries in eight games at a stacked running back position and ended up third in the total rushing department, behind Eason and Dexter McCluster, and scored a touchdown in five games. He also became a receiving target, adding 107 yards receiving with 10 receptions.
Coming into spring practice for the upcoming 2009 season, to-be sophomore Brandon Bolden sits at No. 1 on the depth chart. During the spring game, Bolden added 50 yards on only four carries and a touchdown to lead the Blue team ahead.
Bolden looks as a sophomore to be the No. 1 running back for a team that is a probable top 10 preseason team. Hard work really does pay off.
Derek Stephens is the Ole Miss Community Leader for BleacherReport.com. You can ask questions below or reach him on his bulletin board. Be sure to check out his new blog, OleMissAthletics.net, for your up-to-date Ole Miss athletic updates.
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