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Replacing Josh Robinson's Big Play Ability

Josh Robinson helped the MSU offense lead the SEC in long plays from scrimmage last season. Replacing his production will be a group effort, but can it even be done?

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Several factors contributed to Mississippi State's dynamic offense breaking school records and leading the Southeastern Conference in yards per game in 2014.

One of those factors was long plays from scrimmage - an often overlooked but important statistic in evaluating the explosiveness of a team's offense.

MSU made big play after big play on the way to leading the Southeastern Conference in plays of 20 yards or more with 86.

The only negative from that? The man with 18 of those now dons an Indianapolis Colts uniform.

Josh Robinson had a knack for turning what should have been a minimal gain into a stroll deep into opponent territory.  If you let him get to the second level of the defense, you could bet it was going to take multiple guys to bring him to the turf.

Josh Robinson goes off against Kentucky

While Dak Prescott has been known to break some tackles and make a long run (he had 8 plays of 20+ yards last season) this year's team has to find a way to get that explosive production out of its running backs.

That might be easier said than done with the body types running back coach Greg Knox has to work with. Out of the four guys that are expected to play, only one (Brandon Holloway) is what you would consider a small back with speed.

But that might not matter. After all, the bowling ball didn't bust out those long runs because of his speed. He did it by breaking tackles. Robinson used his body to his advantage, always staying low and keeping his legs moving.

That ability to break tackles is something that shouldn't be lacking when the running backs take the field this season.

We've seen it the past two years from Ashton Shumpert, and we saw it in the spring game with Dontavian Lee. Aeris Williams can lower the shoulder pads when he needs to as well.

Lee has even drawn comparisons to Anthony Dixon. It may be too early for that type of praise, but it's exciting to see the physicality that he and the rest of the backs bring to the table.

But breaking tackles won't always equal big runs and playing physical won't always mean more playing time.

To truly become a big play threat all four guys need to play a factor in the passing game, another area where Josh Robinson excelled.

One third of Robinson's 18 plays of 20 plus yards came receiving the ball. South Carolina's Mike Davis was the only running back in the league that beat Robinson in that category.

Catching and blocking are usually the last skills in a young running back's development that begin to take shape. Given the fact that two of MSU's running backs are still redshirt freshmen, that may present a problem.

And don't forget the main reason Brandon Holloway moved to running back in the first place - he couldn't catch the football.

It was an element of J-Rob's game that really went underappreciated. And it was certainly a big reason for the offense's success.

Running back is never a position of worry for any fan or coach of the Maroon and White. As sure as the sun rises in the East the Bulldogs produce talented runners. It's no different this year. When it comes to positions with question marks running back is well down the list.

But one thing is for sure - Shumpert and Holloway have a lot on their shoulders with #13 gone, and their biggest responsibility is teaching the two youngsters behind them and helping them develop.

The season may depend on it.