Ole Miss football: Quinshon Judkins for the Heisman Trophy? It's not outlandish
The Heisman Trophy is so often a quarterback award.
Of course, signal-caller is not the only position that can take home the honor. It just frequently seems to go that way, even in years in which it could be argued that a player somewhere else on the offense or on the other side of the ball was more deserving.
In 2022, 1 running back who has been outstanding both on film and on the stat sheet is Ole Miss’ Quinshon Judkins. The freshman has quickly emerged and was once again a standout in the Rebels’ 31-28 road victory over Texas A&M on Saturday night.
Judkins carried the ball 34 times for a career-high 205 yards with 1 touchdown and a long run of 61 yards. This marked Judkins’ 7th consecutive game in which he found his way to the end zone. As he has also done in the past, Judkins was the difference-maker in a game that was closer than some had originally expected.
Texas A&M (3-5, 1-4 SEC) made it a 1-score game with just over 9 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter after quarterback Conner Weigman tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Noah Thomas. And then it was the 1st-year standout who answered for Ole Miss (8-1, 4-1), rushing for 61, 12, 1 and 1 yards to set the Rebels up to garner a more substantial lead even though the Aggies did manage to threaten again in the final minutes.
With the numbers from Saturday night’s victory in College Station, which also came on his 19th birthday, Judkins has 1,036 rushing yards — the most ever by an Ole Miss freshman — with 13 rushing touchdowns. In the passing game, Judkins has 7 receptions for 71 yards and 1 score.
“That’s very unusual to turn 19 today and be at A&M and carry the ball 34 times,” said Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin, whose team moved up 4 spots to No. 11 in Sunday’s new AP poll. “That’s like Derrick Henry carries when he was winning the Heisman three years older. That’s really special.”
Judkins led the charge in a team rushing effort that racked up 390 yards, the most Texas A&M has allowed since it surrendered 293 yards on the ground to Texas in 2003.
“We would have liked to really get back after a game of not running great, so 63 carries and 390 yards against the best players high school can provide is pretty impressive for our guys,” Kiffin said.
Judkins’ 831 rushing yards on the season coming into Saturday’s game put him 2nd in the SEC, behind only Arkansas’ Raheim Sanders, who had 870 rushing yards and is very much in reach at this point with 1,041 yards after his 171-yard showing in a 41-27 win over Auburn on Saturday.
As Ole Miss entered the game with the No. 3 rushing attack in the nation and the best in the SEC, it’s clear who is the key to leading that effort, which has played arguably the largest role in the Rebels’ 8-1 record.
Few players in the nation are as essential to their team’s success as Judkins is to Ole Miss’, and as long as he keeps it up there’s no reason he shouldn’t be considered for the top award in college football, up there with the likes of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker.
Expect Judkins to only continue what is bound to be a historical level of success by program, conference and national standards as his young career progresses. He has a chance to impress once more against quality competition when the Rebels host Alabama on Nov. 12 after the upcoming bye week.
Any of Judkins’ performances moving forward can’t be discounted — not that any of them could before, though some were skeptical due to level of competition concerns — as the Rebels don’t have a cupcake remaining on the schedule, with Arkansas and Mississippi State to finish out the regular season after Alabama.