MSU Position Preview: Running Back

Andy Lyons

Perhaps the most deep backfield MSU has had in years

The sun comes up, the sun goes down. Each Christmas Eve Santa Claus comes to town. Every year Mississippi State has a solid running game. Since Jackie Sherrill started his tenure with MSU, the Bulldogs have had a string of great backs: Michael Davis, Keffer McGee, J.J. Johnson, Dicenzo Miller, Jerious Norwood, Anthony Dixon, Vick Ballard and now LaDarius Perkins.

Oddly enough the year that did not have a single tailback run for over 400 yards was the best year, 1999. Four running backs shared the load during that special season: Dontae Walker, Chris Rainey, Justin Griffith and Dicenzo Miller. They each had at least 56 carries and 196 yards, with Walker leading the way at 384 yards. Could the 2013 Bulldogs use a similar strategy?

Ladarius Perkins returns as the lead ball-carrier. He is a 5th year senior and broke out for 1,024 yards last year in his first full season as a starter, and has been named to the Coaches Preseason All-SEC 2nd team. Of the four running backs, he received 56% of the carries in 2012 - but could his role be cut back this year. He could be used less for more effectiveness, and hopefully we'll see him in the receiving game which he has flourished in during his career (466 yards, 7 TD).

Josh Robinson looks to be the primary backup to Perk. He is 5'-9" 225, low to the ground but fast. He's really a unique runner and maybe one of the more underrated backs who is a rising sophomore. Robinson averaged 6.1 YPC last year.

Nick Griffin is coming off his second knee surgery during his career at MSU, which has forced a promising career to the sidelines for much of his time. He's only been able to get 47 carries during his first two years, but he's shown flashes of what he's capable of, averaging 7.1 YPC during that time.

Derrick Milton may be ahead of Griffin, he may even be ahead of Robinson, that just speaks to the depth at this position. He's got plenty of speed and a much different frame than JRob at 6'-0" 210 lbs. His fumble at LSU has left a scar in the minds of many, but he should bounce back and be productive this year after a solid redshirt freshman season.

Ashton Shumpert is a true freshman, and while many including myself figured him for a redshirt in 2013, he has been impressive during fall camp leaving the jury still out on whether or not he'll see the field. He was a 4-star recruit out of Fulton, MS.

With this list of tailbacks, I'm not worried about production. The question will be managing them. Being able to mix and match and still keep their rhythm as a runner. I'd like to see Perkins in the passing game a little more, and maybe pound with some of the other guys so Perk is fresh for a big 4th quarter. This is a versatile group, hopefully they will make plenty of noise in the SEC this year, and be able to put up numbers against the better teams - something that plagued the running game in 2012.

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