The Skinny On Norwood

FAYETTEVILLE -- Looking at Jerious Norwood with the untrained eye, he doesn't appear to be the prototypical Southeastern Conference tailback.

Sure, he's 6-foot, 202 pounds, but the junior's physical features don't add up to being the featured back he has been for Mississippi State heading into the Bulldogs' home game against Arkansas on Saturday.

"I told him that he ought to sue his legs for non-support," MSU first-year coach Sylvester Croom told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. "He has the ugliest legs that I have ever seen, but he is tough and has tremendous will to win. We couldn't have beaten Florida or Kentucky without him.

"He has the heart of a lion. He doesn't give great effort for one play. He gives it every single time."

Norwood is third in the SEC and 24th nationally with 101.9 rushing yards per game. He has gained 917 yards and scored 6 touchdowns on 161 carries for a solid 5.7 yards per attempt.

He was the difference in the Bulldogs' big wins against Florida (38-31) and Kentucky (22-7), combining for 345 yards. It was Norwood's 37-yard touchdown with 37 seconds remaining which sealed the upset of then-No. 20 Florida.

During three games in October, Norwood gained 540 yards, the most ever by a Mississippi State running back over such a span.

The way Norwood runs is tough to describe for Croom, who's coached NFL running backs Ahman Green, Barry Sanders and Natrone Means.

"I don't think there's any one style to fit what he does, unless you want to call it the 'Norwood style,'" Croom said. "It'll be like something you've never seen before. Jerious is a little different and I still don't know how he does it.

"If you saw him on a hoof, you would think there's no way. But he gets the job done."

For Norwood, describing his style is easy: Dodge ball. He doesn't like to get hit. That causes him to spin, shake, bake and do everything in his power to avoid would-be tacklers.

"Norwood style is just me doing whatever I have to do," Norwood said. "If I don't have to run anybody over, I ain't going to do it. I'll go around them. I try to mix it up a little bit. Sometimes I go in there hard, sometimes I go around the corner on them. It's all reaction because this game happens so fast, you don't have time to think.

"But, basically, I'm just a scatback with a little power. It's just how I've always run."

Norwood doesn't know where he learned his style. He played tight end in pee wee football and quarterback in junior high before switching to tailback at Brandon (Miss.) High.

As a senior, he played quarterback some, running options primarily, but was recruited as a running back after rushing for 2,152 yards and a Class 5A-best 32 touchdowns in leading Brandon to a 13-1 record and state semifinal appearance.

One recruiting service tabbed him the No. 21 prospect in the country, regardless of position, and he also was named a Parade All-American.

"I was a true running back, but since we didn't have a quarterback, (Brandon coach Dan Davis) put me in there," said Norwood, who completed 10 of 27 passes for 183 yards that season.

Norwood made an immediate impact at Mississippi State, rushing for 418 yards on 66 carries as a true freshman and 675 yards and 2 touchdowns on 121 carries as a sophomore. This season's totals give him 2,000 rushing yards for his career.

In two games against Arkansas, Norwood has been sharp despite limited chances. He's averaging 6.4 yards per attempt with 17 carries for 108 yards against the Razorbacks.

Norwood has raced to another level this season and he said the difference has been the addition of Croom, who last season was the running backs coach for the Green Bay Packers.

"I know he knows what it takes to get a back into the (NFL)," Norwood said. "So whatever he asks me to do, I do my best to do it and, hopefully, it'll pay off and I'll make it to the league one day.

"The main thing he has taught me is to have more patience in the backfield -patience as far as reading my reads right and knowing my blocking assignment."

Patience has helped the offensive line develop blocks, allowing for more spacious holes for Norwood to run through.

"That's where I get my yards from," Norwood said. "Without the offensive line, I wouldn't have any yards, so I give them all the credit for the yards that I do get."

Norwood spends his time hunting everything from deer to squirrel. He said the biggest deer he has harvested was a seven-point buck with an 18-inch spread.

What about Hogs?

"I've hunted everything but a hog, basically," Norwood said. "I don't mess with them hogs, man. I ain't Muslim (religion which prohibits followers from eating pork) or anything, I just don't like hogs."

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