STARKVILLE – Patrick Hanrahan thought his plan had gone terribly awry.
When Dan Mullen was hired as Mississippi State’s head coach last December, Hanrahan feared he would be faced with the very situation that had caused him to leave Alabama earlier that year.
In the summer of 2008, after two years there, the fullback left Tuscaloosa for Starkville in hopes of finding a better fit for his skill set in Sylvester Croom’s offense, which used the power-I formation a lot. Alabama coach Nick Saban’s schemes had little use for fullbacks.
No need to worry. In his first meeting with Mullen, Hanrahan was assured he’d have a chance to play in the new spread offense being installed.
“Is there any fullback that’s going to be involved in this offense?” he asked Mullen.
“Yeah,” Mullen said with a smile. “If you can prove to me you can play football, you’ll play fullback.”
Mullen’s kept his word. Hanrahan, a 5-foot-11, 225-pound junior, has been the full-time fullback for MSU this season. On Saturday, he’ll face the team that didn’t have a place for him when No. 3 Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC) comes to town for a 6 p.m. kickoff.
Hanrahan was recruited to Alabama out of Springville (Ala.) High School by Mike Shula. But then Saban was hired, and Hanrahan felt he was an odd man out.
So he came to MSU after Alabama’s 2008 spring practices and walked on for Croom, who had recruited him at Springville.
Then came the coaching change. Once Mullen promised Hanrahan a shot at playing time, he went after it full speed.
Hanrahan earned his current role the way a lot of Bulldogs have earned roles under Mullen – by excelling on special teams.
“As the special teams coach, I’m looking for guys that give great effort and perform well on special teams. If they do, they’re going to play a lot more on offense and defense,” Mullen said. “I think his performance on special teams led to his increased playing time on offense.”
Said Hanrahan, “Being young and whatnot, it gives you a chance to just show that you can make plays on the field and make a better role for offense or defense.”
Paving the way
It should be noted that tailback Anthony Dixon, who has assaulted the MSU record books this season, owes some of his success to the lead blocking of Hanrahan, who loves a physical style of play.
Dixon calls Hanrahan “Hammer,” because “he definitely goes in there, and he drops it down,” Dixon said. “There’s nothing but love in between us. We work for each other. He works for me, and I work for him. It’s just kind of how our relationship is.”
The two have become close, and Dixon makes sure to thank Hanrahan after every practice and every game for efforts that often go unnoticed by others. Following Dixon’s 252-yard performance against Kentucky on Oct. 31 – it set a single-game school rushing mark – Hanrahan picked up the 235-pounder in the locker room in celebration.
“At that point in time, I was so happy, it didn’t matter if I had broke my back,” Hanrahan said. “I was happy just to win, and it was the first thing that came to mind, was to pick him up.”
A win Saturday against Alabama would be extra special for Hanrahan. He’s been in touch with some of his old Tide teammates this week, but he’d rather keep the whole thing low key.
It’s a chance, though, for Hanrahan to show Saban what he’s missing. Getting Dixon in gear early will be crucial for the Bulldogs, and maybe Hanrahan will get a couple of touches himself.
He’s had just one carry this year, for minus-1 yard against Jackson State. He has no catches.
“He always draws me a bunch of (plays) up on the board,” offensive coordinator Les Koenning said with a laugh, “so maybe we’ll use a couple of them.”
Either way, Hanrahan’s just happy to be a part of it all.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or email@example.com.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal