Mississippi State’s running back corps, which returns both Aeris Williams and Kylin Hill, may be the strongest unit on offense outside of the quarterback position. Williams will almost certainly be the starter, but don’t sleep on young Hill. He may not have had the most prolific freshman season, but he is poised to break out for the Bulldogs under new head coach Joe Moorhead.
Hill, a local back out of Columbus High School, was a recruit valued by many programs for his speed and agility as well as his power, racking up just over 4000 all purpose yards and 46 TDs in his last two high school seasons.
Though most of his career yards have come on the ground, his speed and agility in the open field may allow him to be used as a receiving option out of the backfield. Moorhead’s experience play calling for Saquon Barkley at Penn State could be factor in the use of Hill on offense.
Barkley, one of the top overall prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft, has a bit more muscle than Hill (230 lbs to Hill’s 210 lbs), but they’re just about the same height, and both have the acceleration to burn defenders. Hill will be more pressed for playing time than Barkley was the past two seasons, but the passing game could be a way for Moorhead to get one of his best young talents involved early and often without taking more carries from Williams.
Speaking of Aeris Williams, Moorhead’s history of trickery with Barkley might provide some opportunities for some trick plays featuring multiple backs and/or receivers. Two back sets would give the defense more to think about on option plays, and take attention away from the receivers spread out wide. The Nittany Lions offense also featured Flea flickers, hook and ladders, and even a few attempts at throwing for Barkley. All of these options were utilized by Moorhead to catch opponents off guard and get the most out of his best players.
Hill was arguably the standout player of the spring game, racking up 3 TDs on the day and getting plenty of action with quarterback Keytaon Thompson. He was often used in the passing game as a screen target and check down option out of the pocket. His speed allowed him to quickly exploit holes in the defense before they could be mended.
Hill also showed his power in the spring game. In the dying seconds of the first half he pushed through the opposing front 7 for a last second goal line touchdown. His strength may look surprising from a distance, but it’s part of what made the former 4-star such a coveted recruit. Former Head Coach Dan Mullen was often unable to get the best out of his speed backs up the middle, but Hill seems to be able to run inside and outside just fine in Moorhead’s system. Hill looks willing and able to do it all out of the backfield.
Moorhead’s offensive expertise was on full display Saturday afternoon, and fans were treated to a glimpse of what their team will be capable of come September. With so many returning starters from last season there is bound to be competition for snaps, but Hill has shown he is more than just a young second option. He’s a potential X factor, and Moorhead is more than experienced with getting the best out of X factors.