Losing a 1,000-yard back like Josh Robinson would cripple the ground game for some teams.
Mississippi State however might even be better running the football next fall. Greg Knox coached a quartet of tailbacks that were effectively toting the ball this spring.
Junior Ashton Shumpert and redshirt freshmen Aeris Williams and Dontavian Lee are essentially the same style of power back. All three are downhill runners who do not shy away from contact. In fact, they sometimes seem to go in search of it.
Junior Brandon Holloway is the change of pace back with his blazing speed. Holloway received a majority of the reps in the spring before being injured during the second scrimmage in the stadium and missing the final week.
Holloway runs the same plays as the rest of the running backs but with much different results. Between the tackles and especially in short yardage situations, he isn’t much of a factor at only 5-foot-8, 160-pounds. I believe Holloway is better suited as a specialty back coming in on a handful of plays that play to his strengths that get him into the open field where he can use his speed to separate from defenders.
Shumpert took over as MSU’s top rusher late last year but received the fewest touches among the four backs this spring. Perhaps that was by design to preserve him for the workload he will see in the fall.
The former Itawamba AHS standout and Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year runs with violent intent. Shumpert is getting better at finding his gaps to run through and getting his pad level down as he passes through the line of scrimmage. I expect him to emerge as the Bulldogs starter.
Williams and Lee were very impressive this spring combining for 537 yards of offense and eight touchowns during State’s three scrimmages.
Williams is a 6-foot-1, 215-pounder that I saw play plenty during his high school career at West Point. He has a lot of mileage on him but you’d never know it and has proven he is capable of carrying the load.
A former Mr. Football in Mississippi, Williams has the best hands out of the backfield and was effectively used in the passing game this spring. He carried 46 times for 186 yards and a touchdown in the scrimmages and also caught eight balls for 82 yards and two more scores.
I exited the spring more impressed with Lee than any other player on the entire roster. He really impressed me with his power game. There were more than a few defensive backs who went home with bruises trying to tackle the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder in the open field.
Lee may not have been as highly touted out of high school as Shumpert and Williams were but is every bit as talented. He carried 38 times for 217 yards and five touchdowns and also caught seven passes for 52 yards during the spring scrimmages.
As deep as the backfield is already, the Bulldogs have three more joining the fold in the fall. Four-star Nick Gibson joins three-stars Keith Mixon and Alec Murphy in the running back competition starting in the summer.