Ballard, Conner make case at tailback for MSU

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – While a much-ballyhooed quarterback battle is taking place at Mississippi State, the tailback position is pretty heated as well.
While Robert Elliott, a junior, is one of the leading candidates and got plenty of first-team snaps this spring, it was Vick Ballard and Montrell Conner putting on a show in Saturday’s Maroon-White spring game.
Ballard, a junior college transfer, gained 73 yards on 14 carries for the Maroon. Conner, who missed much of the spring with a knee injury, had 60 yards on nine totes for the Maroon.
Elliott, playing for the White, had just one carry for 3 yards.
“I think we found some depth in those guys right there,” coach Dan Mullen said. “Montrell, the injury set him back a little bit, he was great the last couple of days and even today to get out here and run the ball and do some different things.”
Conner said he was a little nervous about cutting and taking contact, but he didn’t look it. He’s relishing the tailback competition, and he expects all will get good playing time this fall.
“Because we’re going to be doing a lot of running, a lot of spreading over the field, so you’re going to get pretty winded,” Conner said. “We’re going to be in great shape, but you’re still going to get winded.”

Tight throws
– With so little depth at receiver, MSU will need to find other ways to move the ball through the air. That’s where the tight ends come in.
In what was likely a taste of what fans will see this fall, State’s tight ends were major factors Saturday. Marcus Green led the Maroon squad with five catches for 56 yards and a touchdown, while Brandon Henderson made two catches for 29 yards for the White.
“The lack of playmaking at the receiver position, you see that,” Mullen said. “We split the team in half, there’s not a whole lot of playmaking ability when you have three, maybe four guys that can make some plays out there on the field.”
Green will be a top target. He was second on the team last season with 27 catches for 306 yards.
“I just can’t say the ball’s going my way,” he said, “but I’ll be looking for it every time.”

Clark changes sides
– At Shannon High School, Arceto Clark was a star on both sides of the ball. At MSU, the redshirt freshman just trying to find a role that will get him on the field.
After spending most of the spring at cornerback, Clark was moved to receiver to help shore up the thin unit. He had one catch for 20 yards Saturday.
He said coaches moved him because it would give him a better chance to play, and he likes the switch.
“I really feel I can make a big contribution to the team once I learn all the plays and everything,” Clark said.

Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or brad.locke@djournal.com.