By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Derrick Milton has looked like a different running back this spring. It helps that he feels different.
After battling nagging knee injuries his first two years on campus, the third-year sophomore is fully healthy and is trying to make his mark in a crowded backfield.
“Healthy as I’ve ever been, stronger, bigger, faster,” Milton said. “I’ve definitely got a lot of confidence in my game right now.”
As part of a four-tailback rotation last fall, the 6-foot, 210-pound Milton rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries. He played in 10 games.
LaDarius Perkins, a senior, returns after a 1,000-yard season, and sophomore Josh Robinson (335 yards, one TD) has continued to impress this spring. So snaps will be hard to come by for Milton, but he’s making a strong case for more playing time.
Two weaknesses for him in the past have been pass blocking and catching the ball. He’s show a knack for the latter throughout spring and feels the blocking is getting better, too.
The passing game is a place Milton could possibly have an impact.
“I work for it, so I definitely feel comfortable catching the ball out of the backfield, making somebody miss and taking it downfield,” he said.
As good as he’s been this spring, Milton did struggle in Saturday’s scrimmage. He unofficially gained 29 yards on 10 carries, a reminder to him that there’s still a long way to go.
But with the way he’s feeling and the way he’s running right now, Milton is headed in the right direction.
“Derrick Milton, he’s come a long ways since he got here,” Perkins said.
Once Nick Griffin, who tore his ACL in December, is fully healthy again, the Bulldogs will once more have a wealth of tailback options. Milton plans to be in the mix, and MSU needs him to be, especially with so much turnover at receiver this year.
“We need to keep him healthy and keep him going. That’s a key,” offensive coordinator Les Koenning said. “Again, his learning curve has gotten better since he showed up here. He’s understanding what’s expected of him and how to run the ball.”