The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Bulldogs begin search for starting running back

Courtesy Photo | Kelly Price

Brandon Holloway, senior running back, carries the ball through practice drills during the Bulldog’s spring football practice.

Going into  spring practice there is a lot of focus on the developing quarterback battle, but many are missing out on the equally intriguing battle  going on in the offensive backfield. It is a heated competition and a position Mississippi State struggled with last year. 

The MSU running backs  combined a measly 984 yards with Brandon Holloway leading the backs with 428. Without star quarterback Dak Prescott, the running backs will have to pick up the slack as Prescott led the team in rushing yards last season with 790. 

The four contenders for the starting spot are seniors Holloway and Ashton Shumpert and  sophomores Aeris Williams and Dontavian Lee. 

Aeris Williams told media in a press conference the competition has been good for the players because they  push each other.

 “We just make each other better,” Williams said. “It is a lot of competition but we just play together.” 

Most would say Williams and Lee are more talented than the seniors. Last season Williams was the leading running back in rushing touchdowns with three, but  Lee led the backs in yards per carry with 6.2. However, what Shumpert and Holloway lack in raw talent, they make up for in experience.  

Holloway points to his knowledge of the game being his biggest advantage.

“Your knowledge is the biggest thing on the field, everyone has the ability,”  Holloway told the media. “You get out there and know what is coming. That makes everything a lot easier.”

Each player also brings a different individual skill set, with Holloway being a small speedster, and Lee and Shumpert being big power backs. Williams is a blend of both speed and power. With all the different skill sets the MSU backfield possess, one back may not separate from the others and MSU could use each of their skillsets differently. It would not be out of the question for MSU to run multiple two-back sets this fall. 

Shumpert outlined how their skills complement each other. 

“We all just play off each other,” the senior running back said. “Because one of the speed guys can run the ball one play and then one of the power backs the next.” 

The chances are low that Head coach Dan Mullen has his main guy by the end of the spring game on April 16. He may not even have a lead back by opening day on Sept. 3 against South Alabama. A committee approach would not be out of the question. One thing is for sure, if MSU wants to have success this season, they will need more production from the running back position. 

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Bulldogs begin search for starting running back