By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – LaDarius Perkins has learned the art of patience, and he’s trying now to teach it to his eager understudies.
Perkins, a fourth-year junior, has deftly stepped into the role of lead tailback for No. 21 Mississippi State, which is 4-0 (1-0 SEC) entering next weekend’s game with Kentucky. A complementary player his first two years behind Vick Ballard, Perkins has so far answered questions about whether he can handle a bigger role.
He’s rushed for 389 yards on 57 carries – that’s 6.8 yards per carry – and has scored five touchdowns. Perkins has scored at least one TD in each game this season.
A 179-yard effort against Troy has bolstered his total, but still, Perkins is on pace to eclipse 1,000 yards. He’s in this position because of the patience he developed over his first three years on campus.
Perkins “went and spent time working with the scout team and had an opportunity to get some carries in different games and has continually improved throughout his career,” coach Dan Mullen said. “He is a good role model for those young guys to look at and say, hey, my time is going to come, because if I just work the way he works and I continue down the right path of improving myself as a player, I’m going to have the opportunities that Perk is having now.
“I’m going to have the chance to be a star.”
MSU has three promising tailbacks behind Perkins: redshirt freshmen Derrick Milton and Josh Robinson, and sophomore Nick Griffin. Milton has rushed for 133 yards and a score, while Robinson has 110 yards and Griffin has 47.
Being young and eager, and having limited opportunities right now, those young bucks often try to make a big play every time they touch the ball.
“I understand some of the young guys, they want to hit home runs on certain carries, because carries are limited right now, so I understand them trying to make the big play,” Perkins said.
“When I was younger, when I was a redshirt freshman and sophomore, that’s what I wanted to do when I got in. But sometimes you’ve just got to get those three and four yards, also.”
Perkins is certainly capable of the big play. He broke off a 44-yard touchdown run against South Alabama and had a 30-yard TD at Troy the week before.
His home run ability has been brought out due not only to patience – such as following blocks and reading the defense – but by experience.
“I’ve been here four years, so a lot of things have slowed down, and everything is coming really easy to me,” Perkins said. “My vision has got a whole lot better. I can see the hole faster and I can hit it also faster.”
That experience will come soon enough for Griffin, Milton and Robinson. Like Perkins, they’ll have to play secondary roles for a couple of seasons before having a shot at the No. 1 job.
His example is the prime reason they shouldn’t feel rushed.
Perkins said he tells them, “You’ve just got to be patient and things are going to come to you. … Just make sure you be patient and be ready for that time when it comes.”