STARKVILLE, Miss. — Rockey Felker has a succinct summation of his dilemma as Mississippi State’s running backs coach.
“It’s a good problem to have,” he said.
The dilemma? Finding playing time for a stable of tailbacks that can go as many as five deep, including one All-Southeastern Conference feature back, Anthony Dixon, and a redshirt freshman, Robert Elliott, who was one of the biggest recruits around here in recent years.
So when will State use which back and when?
“I think it’s too early to talk about that,” Felker said. “We haven’t really got our game plan exactly complete yet. We’re going to sure try to do things that they’re good at doing.”
For the 240-pound Dixon, that’ll include almost anything. But look for him in those game-changing third-and-1 situations.
Christian Ducre, at 222 pounds, gives State similar options to Dixon.
But with Elliott and another redshirt freshman, Wade Bonner, the dynamic changes. Both of those players could be classified as speed backs, giving State the option to break some long runs and get more big plays, a focal point for the season.
State begins its 2008 season on Saturday at Louisiana Tech.
Coaches have especially raved on Elliott during this preseason camp. He came to Starkville last year looking like he could gain playing time early but developed a habit of fumbling the ball.
Elliott has yet to fumble this preseason. He said that learning how to carry the football correctly and be strong enough to take hits was an offseason goal. Learning how to run north-south was another.
“I know as far as, like, practice, you’re not going to outrun anybody on the football field,” he said.
State brings experience at fullback, too. Seniors Brandon Hart and Eric Hoskins started a collective eight games last season, and Croom is pleased with their work.