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RECRUITING SPOTLIGHT: Dodson ready to get started

Whitehaven (Memphis, Tenn.) senior running back Mark Dodson Jr. remains solidly committed to Ole Miss, and he plans to graduate early and participate in spring practice with the Rebels. Whitehaven head coach Rodney Saulsberry describes Dodson as an all-purpose back, and 247 national recruiting analyst Keith Niebuhr says he can play multiple positions.
Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal

 
Whitehaven senior running back Mark Dodson Jr. verbally committed to Ole Miss on May 14, and he remains solid in his commitment, as he plans to graduate in December so he can enroll in classes in January and participate in spring practice. Dodson said he currently has straight A’s this semester, which would put him on the path to graduate early. 
 
“I’m solid with my commitment,” Dodson said. “I trust Coach (Hugh) Freeze and the program and the way it is right now. There’s no other place to be. I’m on the path to graduate early, enroll in January and start to get the playbook down.”
 
Dodson, rated a four-star prospect by ESPN.com and Rivals.com and a three-star prospect by 247 Sports and Scout.com, chose Ole Miss over offers from Arkansas, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt, among others. He is impressed with the way Ole Miss is competing this season, and he looks forward to finding a role in Freeze’s spread offense next season.
 
In his first three years at Whitehaven, the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder rushed for well over 4,000 yards. Through eight games this season, he has 158 carries for 1,547 yards and 17 touchdowns, as the Tigers are off to an 8-0 start and ranked No. 3 in Tennessee Class 6A. His biggest game of the season came in a 63-34 win against Ridgeway, when he had 30 carries for 385 yards and three touchdowns.
 
“He definitely has everything you want in a football player as far as talent and being an all-purpose back,” Whitehaven head coach Rodney Saulsberry said. “He can run inside, outside and all of those things. The most important thing I like to talk about is him as a person. He’s a great kid. The way he carries himself is a lot more than anything he does in football. His character speaks for him.”
 
In four years at Whitehaven, Saulsberry said Dodson’s body has grown, and he’s worked to that end, going from a 165-170-pound scat back to a 180-pound all-purpose back, and he sees him getting even better as he goes to college.
 
“He can be the bell cow on first and second down getting those tough yards,” he said. “And on third down, he can still be in there because he’s a willing and able blocker. He can pick up pass protection. He has very high football IQ. He works well in the screen game. He can play out in the slot. He’s a true all-purpose back.”
 
What separates Dodson from other running backs is his explosiveness that makes him a home-run threat, according to Saulsberry.
 
“He has great vision and every time he touches the ball, he can go the distance, but he’s willing to get those tough yards, if necessary,” he said. “He can get that one or two yards on third-and-short, or he can go for 90 yards in one swoop. He’s done all of that. The one thing that makes him special is acceleration out of cuts. With one cut, he can accelerate full speed very quickly. Explosiveness separates you because you can see him moving at a faster pace than other players on the field.”
 
Ole Miss is expected to return three of its top four running backs in junior Jeff Scott, freshman I’Tavius Mathers and freshman Jaylen Walton. Dodson is also one of three running backs verbally committed to the Rebels, along with Peyton Barber (Alpharetta, Ga./Milton) and Eugene Brazley (New Orleans, La./G.W. Carver).
 
With that possible depth at running back, 247 Sports national recruiting analyst Keith Niebuhr sees value in Dodson’s ability to play multiple positions and compared him to freshman defensive back Mike Hilton, who started against Texas A&M and has recorded 14 tackles in six games this season at the huskie position.
 
“He’s compact,” Niebuhr said. “He’s muscular. He’s put together better than you think for a guy with those measurements. He can play running back, he can play slot receiver and he can play cornerback. I think if it doesn’t work out at one position or there’s a more pressing need at another position, I think he’s the kind of guy that can slide over and make an easy adjustment.”
 
Dodson credited his work in the offseason for his on-field success, and Saulsberry describes him as a player that’s the “first one there” and who “leads by example,” and he said this work ethic translates to his ability to lead.
 
“He’s not a rah-rah guy, but he leads by example,” he said. “But when he does speak, his words carry weight, and he challenges his other teammates to step up and do things. The kids believe in him because he works just as hard, and I would say harder than anyone else. They know he’s going to work.”
 
Whether it’s as an all-purpose running back or in another role on next year’s team, Dodson is on his way to making a difference at Ole Miss.
 
“I know greatness is in his future because he’s going to work at it and make sure it is,” Saulsberry said.
 
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