By Brad Locke / NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Vick Ballard sure doesn’t talk like a guy who wants to be a feature tailback, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t get it done.
Maybe Ballard seems so reserved because he’s following in the steps of the animated and record-setting Anthony Dixon. But he does prefer to let his work do most of the talking.
With Mississippi State’s season opener against Memphis 13 days away, Ballard is one of three leading candidates for the tailback position, the others being junior Robert Elliott and redshirt freshman LaDarius Perkins. Ballard, a junior college transfer, said there hasn’t really been a rotation of first-, second-, third-string backs, and he isn’t worried about his chances of being named starter.
“I mean, it ain’t really been on my mind,” Ballard said. “I ain’t thinking about it.”
His teammates believe Ballard has the stuff to be the No. 1 tailback if need be.
“He’s physical and never stops moving his legs,” defensive end Pernell McPhee said. “That’s the main two things.”
Ballard, who enrolled at MSU in January, rushed for 1,728 yards and 22 touchdowns last season for Gulf Coast Community College, earning first-team All-American honors.
Said quarterback Tyler Russell, “He’s kind of quiet, and when he comes to practices, it’s time to work.”
Coach Dan Mullen has said he thinks the running game could be more productive with several contributors than with just one, even one as good as Dixon. MSU led the SEC in rushing last year.
If Ballard did need to be a 20-carries-a-game guy, he believes he could do it.
“I could. As long as I get all my assignments, I believe I could.”
Scrimmage: Few specifics
n Mullen and Russell were both vague when asked about Friday night’s closed, 100-play scrimmage at Davis Wade Stadium.
No stats were made available, nor was much analysis from those involved, even though they watched tape Saturday morning before practice.
Mullen said the scrimmage had sloppy moments, and the quarterbacks began and ended the session slowly. He said the depth chart became a little clearer, but he offered no specifics.
“I have a good idea in my mind what we’re going to do,” Mullen said, “but we’ve still got a couple more weeks until we play.”
When asked if he held out “a lot” of older players Friday, Mullen said he didn’t, but McPhee said he and some other veterans did only conditioning work, likening it to “boot camp.”
Mullen did admit that the focus was more on younger and inexperienced players.
“There’s a lot of guys that I’ve seen play live in big-game situations,” Mullen said. “It was more for us to evaluate the younger guys.”
Russell said he had a good scrimmage but said he couldn’t remember how many touchdown passes he threw or how many points the offense scored.
“We just went out there and competed,” he said. “We scored a lot, and the defense stopped us a lot. We played for a long time out there.”
n Mullen wasn’t much more specific when asked for an update about the quarterback battle between Russell and Chris Relf.
“They’re all still developing,” Mullen said. “We’re going to keep developing them and see how the season plays out for us.”
Mullen has said that true freshman Dylan Favre is also in the mix, but it will likely be Relf and Russell splitting snaps this fall. Russell said he’s gotten snaps with both the first- and second-team during preseason camp.
“My job right now is to get better every day, and I’m going to be prepared either way,” Russell said. “And if he calls me to go in, I’m going to be a hundred percent ready to go, and I’m going to know what to do.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.