As of week, we at FWTCT are doing our positional group breakdown for the upcoming football season. Having said that, it is time to get to know the running backs. Here is a look at key and incoming players, expectations, and an overall grade.
Mississippi State fans are more than familiar with the term “Thunder and Lightning,” a line used today to describe the greatest duo on the baseball diamond, Rafael Palmeiro and Will Clark. That said, a Mississippi State footabll duo may just take on that very name come fall. Get to know running backs Aeris Williams and Kylin Hill, as both are going to put on a show and a half this season.
Aeris “A-Train” Williams, a senior hailing from West Point, MS, is a beast when it comes to seeing the holes and using lightning quickness to hit them. The “A-Train” was recruited as a 4-star prospect by Mullen’s staff, having had his mind on being a Bulldog. Williams ran a 4.5 40 in high school, one of many reasons why run-heavy programs such as Wisconsin, Florida State reached out.
Williams is the SEC’s second leading returner in rushing yards from last season behind Kentucky’s Benny Snell. He is also one of three returning backs who have ran for 1,000 yards. Williams is currently eleventh in Bulldogs’ career rushing yards with 2,033, which places him right behind ex-Indianapolis Colt, Vick Ballard. Another 1,000 yard season for Aeris would elevate him to third all-time behind Anthony Dixon and Jerious Norwood.
But Williams will have to share the load with his counterpart, Kylin Hill, the stud sophomore from down the road, Columbus, MS. Many college football “experts” seem to be sleeping on Hill early on. We ask that these college football “experts” PLEASE continue to fuel the thundering locomotive, as we would rather the SEC and others be greeted by Mr. Hill in true Bulldog fashion.
Hill, like Williams, never wavered from joining Mississippi State. He spent a lot of time recruiting others who are on the current roster, as Jarrian Jones is doing the same at the moment. Hill was the third leading rusher for the Bulldogs and still finished with numbers close to 400 yards on the ground on 78 carries. We expect his numbers to rise significantly. He has the tools; speed, size, power, vision, work ethic, and confidence
As this piece was being written, Hill was with running backs coach Charles Huff putting in some extra work. Huff also coached the Penn State backs, as renowned Nittany Lion superstar Saquon Barkley took the world by storm. Barkley was drafted 2nd overall to the New York Giants, and many see similarities between he and Hill. Look for Huff to continue to mold the physical specimen throughout the course of the year.
Another key back for Mississippi State is Nick Gibson, who has the ability to turn the Bulldog backfield into a three-headed monster if carries permit. Gibson, like Williams and Hill, was also a 4-star prospect. While Gibson has not carried the ball often, he has made every single attempt count.
Gibson and Williams are nearly identical as it pertains to characteristics, hence why it has been difficult for him to see the field more often. Prepare for Gibson to receive A-Train’s workload next year alongside Hill, but not this season, as he will be limited, due to Mississippi State’s new “Thunder and Lightning” duo. Ah, and need I mention that the Bulldogs have potentially the best SEC rushing quarterback in history, Nick Fitzgerald?!
Sadly, Mississippi State has only grabbed one commit at running back from the previous class, Ladamian Webb from Opelika, AL. However, news is spreading that he has transferred after never gaining clearance from NCAA to play this season. Webb was a 3-star prospect and someone the coaching staff was very high on.
Marcus Murphy from West Point, MS was recruited as well, an athlete who could play many different positions. We will see if he slides back over to the offensive side of the ball, or remains at safety on defense. Depth at running back is something the Bulldogs will have to address for the next few years, but not a problem for the Mississippi State at the moment.
Mississippi State is the deepest they ever been at the running back, with four 4-star caliber athletes to work with in Williams, Hill, Gibson, and Dontavian Lee (senior from Brooklyn, MS). Williams and Hill will lead the charge, as we fully expect “Thunder and Lightning” to be one of, if not the best 1-2 punch in the country. The two not only complement each other, but will work great with Fitzgerald, perhaps the SEC’s best quarterback.
The return of an entire offensive line, which finished top 5 in most categories, is also a clear sign for a one of a kind season for these backs. The only question left to answer is whether or not any receivers will step up to balance the offense. We will breakdown the wide receivers sometime next week, but there is nothing to worry about here, as these dogs will be eating come this fall!!
Position Group Grade: A+