By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Even LaDarius Perkins’ friends doubted him coming into this season.
Their doubts were shared by many others: That Perkins, a 5-foot-10, 190-pound junior, wouldn’t be able to carry the load as a full-time SEC tailback.
So far, he’s proved them all wrong. Heading into Saturday’s game against No. 1 Alabama, Perkins leads the SEC in rushing with 724 yards (103.4 per game). He’s eclipsed the 100-yard mark in four of his last five games, averaging nearly 23 carries in those four big outings.
“A lot of people were thinking that I couldn’t handle the load, a lot of outside people. Even my friends were telling things like that,” Perkins said.
“Now it’s all good. They’re all patting me on the back now.”
Perkins has scored eight touchdowns and is the only running back in Division I-A to rush for at least one TD in each of his team’s games. This week will be his toughest test yet – Alabama ranks first in the country against the run, giving up 58.7 yards per game. No team has rushed for more than 80 yards against the Crimson Tide.
But Alabama coach Nick Saban is impressed with Perkins.
“He is very quick and instinctive as a runner and does a really effective job of executing and running the plays that they have,” Saban said at his Monday press conference. “He is tough. He runs behind his pads and is a tough guy to tackle.”
Bama linebacker Nico Johnson said MSU’s running game “is probably the best in the SEC.”
Smith ‘100 percent’
Right guard Tobias Smith has been in and out of the lineup as coaches protect the knee he injured last fall. The senior, who has a lengthy injury history, has played in four games with three starts.
He sat out last week’s 45-3 win over Middle Tennessee, but he should be good to go for Alabama.
“He’s 100 percent ready to go,” said offensive line coach John Hevesy , who added that redshirt freshman Justin Malone will likely play as well.
The most snaps Smith has logged this year was 49 against both Auburn and Tennessee.
No injury news
MSU head coach Dan Mullen had no news on the injury front. He did get a scare Saturday when starting cornerback Johnthan Banks twisted his left knee at the end of an interception return, but he turned out to be OK.
“At this time of the year on the injury report we’re commonly banged up with a lot of guys sore, battered and bruised,” Mullen said, “but that’s not going to change and (there’s) nobody we expect not to play Saturday.”