August 14, 2012

Running back preview

For a coach who lost 1,000 yard rusher in Vick Ballard to the NFL, Greg Knox doesn't seem to be too worried.

The Mississippi State running backs coach is actually quite confident these days. Knox has a whole stable of young backs who are eager to prove themselves on the field and all four of them will get their opportunity to just that this fall.

It is not the first time that Knox has been in this situation since he arrived in Starkville four years ago. In 2010 Knox had just lost 1,000 yard rusher Anthony Dixon to the draft and had a loaded backfield of Ballard, Robert Elliott and LaDarius Perkins to interchange reps.

Ballard eventually emerged as the starter and Knox feels he is going through the same circumstances this year.

"It's just like when we lost (Anthony) Dixon," Knox said. "We had some guys who came in and stepped up and now we lose (Vick) Ballard. But I think we've got a good group of guys that understand what's going on and understands how to play the game. Some of them are still gaining experience but we've got guys that can make plays."

Perkins, now a junior, will team up with sophomore Nick Griffin and redshirt freshmen Josh Robinson and Derrick Milton to make up that backfield arsenal.

Perkins is the only one out of that duo with significant playing time. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder has played in all 26 games over the past two seasons gaining 988 yards on 188 carries and five touchdowns. He has also hauled in 22 passes for 306 yards and five more scores.

"I have no doubt at all that he can get it done," Knox said. "Perkins is a big play guy. He can make the big plays and then you've got the other guys that have their strengths and weaknesses also. Perkins can put his foot in the ground here and be over there in a hiccup. He can go."

Next in line is former Dandy Dozen selection Nick Griffin. After a spring 2011 knee injury derailed his promising redshirt freshman season, the six-foot, 225-pounder still managed to appear in five games carrying 16 times for 109 yards and his first career touchdown.

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