STARKVILLE – Montrell Conner is still a part of Mississippi State’s football team, but it’s not clear how big a part he is right now.
Rumors began swirling Wednesday night that Conner might be leaving the program, but coach Dan Mullen said Thursday that the redshirt freshman running back is still with the Bulldogs.
“He’s dealing with some personal things right now,” Mullen said.
When asked if Conner was practicing with the team, Mullen said, “He’s dealing with his personal issues right now. When we get that all figured out, we’ll let you know what’s going on.”
Conner spoke with his coach from Ouachita Parish (La.) High School on Wednesday, and John Carr said he wasn’t given any indication Conner wanted to leave MSU.
“He just called to see how we were doing, and I asked how he was doing, and he just said he’s not doing as well as he wishes that he could,” Carr said. “So I just kind of gave him some words of encouragement to hang in there and do those kinds of things.”
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Conner is vying for playing time at tailback along with junior Vick Ballard, junior Robert Elliott and redshirt freshman LaDarius Perkins.
Conner was limited during some of spring drills with a knee injury, but he had a solid spring game, rushing for 60 yards on nine carries.
At Ouachita Parish, Conner was a first-team all-state selection his senior year and was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 16 “athlete” in the nation. He’s been compared to Anthony Dixon, MSU’s all-time leading rusher and the man Mullen is trying to replace.
“Montrell Conner’s a big, powerful back in the way that Dixon was for us,” Mullen said on Saturday. “He has that size, that power running ability, but also has some speed and elusiveness to go with it.”
Carr thinks Conner might be feeling lost in the shuffle, because he’s no longer the star player. But he expects Conner to persevere.
“I think sometimes when you were kind of the big fish in high school, sometimes when you get to (college), they’re gonna be loaded with a lot of big fish, especially a place like Mississippi State,” Carr said. “He’s just gotta get the compete part inner self of it, just to get in there and compete. He’s got to do a little better job of that, probably.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal