Three yards and a cloud of dust, that’s Mississippi State football.
At least, that’s the way many have historically perceived the Bulldogs.
However, this season MSU will have new look on offense.
Quarterback Tyler Russell’s skill set is built around throwing the football and it is easy to make the connection State will throw the football more, but before the Bulldogs make the choice to abandon the run, veteran running back LaDarius Perkins has some thoughts on the subject.
“I feel like throwing the ball more will open up the run easily,” said the junior tailback. “It will give us more space to run and that’s fine with me.”
MSU head coach Dan Mullen agrees his team will pass a bit more than normal, but that doesn’t mean it will get away from the run entirely.
“To me, ideally, I want to be 50/50," Mullen said. "I guess last year we were probably a little bit heavier run. When you run 70 plays in a game (and) if you’re 50/50, that’s 35/35. That would be a lot of passes maybe to some people, and to other offenses less. For some offenses, that’d be a lot of runs and other offenses less. But to me, if we come out the end of the season and we’re 50/50, 51/49, I’m going to be pretty happy.”
One thing is for sure, when the Bulldogs turn to their running game, Mullen will have multiple options to choose from.
Perkins returns as State’s most experienced runner with 988 yards on 187 carries. He has proven to be a versatile option for Mullen’s offense during his first two seasons with 306 yards receiving and 644 yards via kick returns. He also has 10 touchdowns to his credit, five on the ground and five through the air.
“I just look forward to doing whatever they put me in there to do,” said Perkins. “If it is running the ball or catching the ball out of the backfield, they can even motion me out. That’s fine with me as long we win.”
You might think Perkins would be a bit jealous he will split carries with the others in the MSU backfield, but that’s not the case at all.
“It is good because all of the young guys, they want to get on the field too," Perkins said. "Once they get their feet on the field they will be fine. It doesn’t matter to me. I know that I’m the starter and usually the starters will get their carries. I’m fine with that because I would like for them to get carries because they are talented backs also and they don’t want to waste their time here so they need carries.”
Behind Perkins, there's the trio of Nick Griffin, Derrick Milton and Josh Robinson. Griffin is the only other tailback to have seen action.
As a freshman, Griffin carried the ball 16 times for 108 yards and a score, which was impressive considering he was coming off knee surgery. This season Griffin is 100 percent healthy and looks to gain the mental edge he needs to be most effective.
Milton comes into camp at 6-foot, 205-pounds and is potentially the between the tackle option for MSU this season. As a redshirt freshman, he lacks the experience but has the skill set to be successful at the SEC level.
Like Milton, Robinson spent last season observing as a redshirt. Now he’s chomping at the bit to get his shot to take the field.
“We’ve got great running backs that can get the job done at any time,” said Robinson. “We don’t have a competition to where we are trying to beat each other out. We are just giving our strengths and weaknesses to the team.”
While the Bulldogs make look at little different on offense this season, the running game should remain strong.