STARKVILLE, MS - NOVEMBER 12: Running back Vick Ballard #28 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs looks for running room against the Alabama Crimson Tide on November 12, 2011 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)
Day 29: Replacing Vick Ballard's 29 Rushing Touchdowns
It's tough to replace a player like Vick Ballard. 2,157 rushing yards. 29 rushing touchdowns (a school record 19 during the 2010 season). A quiet, hard-working leader. Luckily for Dan Mullen, he's got some talented guys in the stable to lighten the blow. Let's take a look at the running back depth-chart entering the 2012 season and how they should perform statistically.
1 - LaDarius Perkins - 5'10 190 lbs., Jr.
2 - Nick Griffin - 6'0 225 lbs., So.
3 - Josh Robinson - 5'9 215 lbs., RFr.
4 - Derrick Milton - 6'0 205., RFr.
Perkins is the most experienced guy and has proven, game-breaking ability. He solidified himself as the #1 RB with a solid spring, so there should be no surprise that he'll be getting the most reps. The one question mark with Perkins is his ability to be an every-down back. Can he run between the tackles effectively? Perkins is at his best on sweeps, screens, and catching the ball out of the backfield, and could be in for a huge season if he's developed a little more thump to his running style.
Perkins 2012 Stats Projection: (Rushing) 155 carries, 806 yds, 5.2 avg, 6 TDs. (Receiving) 27 rec, 297yds, 4 TDs.
Griffin is more of a power back. Easily the most physically imposing of the ball carriers, I expect Nick to get most of the work in short yardage and goal line situations. Perkins and Griffin should do a nice job of complementing each other as a one-two punch (speed and power). He should also benefit from the stretch of easier games to start the season, which should see him get a lot of carries if the coaches choose to rest Perkins.
Griffin 2012 Stats Projection: (Rushing) 120 carries, 576 yds, 4.8 avg, 8 TDs.
Josh Robinson is the guy I'm most excited to see play this fall. From the moment he stepped on the practice field in 2011, he began to draw praise of players, coaches, and the media. The bowling ball of a runner (think Maurice Jones-Drew) has a nice ability to hide behind blockers and explode into the open field as we saw in the spring game when he ripped off a 55-yard touchdown run, leaving defensive players in the dust.
Robinson 2012 Stats Projection: (Rushing) 40 carries, 220 yds., 5.5 avg, 3 TDs.
Milton is a talented, athletic runner who will be a victim of there only being one football to hand-off. Although, I think we'll see him and Robinson split carries if games get out of hand.
Milton 2012 Stats Projectiion: (Rushing) 15 carries, 66 yds., 4.4 avg, 1 TD.
Freshman To Watch: Xavier Grindle, 5'10 185 lbs. Grindle rushed for 2,103 yards and 18 TDs as a high school senior. I'd expect him to redshirt this season, but if he's as good as advertised then he may steal some carries from Robinson and Milton.
Obviously, the running backs won't be the only players getting carries in Dan Mullen's offense. Back-up QB Dak Prescott should get some carries in certain packages, as well as some touches from wide receivers Chad Bumphis and Jameon Lewis when they are used in the Wildcat role.