Perkins Savors Sweet Taste Of State Success

This has to be LaDarius Perkins' favorite week of the calendar. But not for the competition; it's all about the candy with Perkins, a self-confessed addict to the sweet stuff. "I have a stash, a drawer in my room. I have a lot of chocolate, a lot of sour-sweet candy. I eat a lot!"

Such a confession would surely seem to contradict two clear facts. First, this redshirt freshman tailback is, as they say, ripped. In fact that is exactly what center J.C. Brignone said of his younger teammate this week, in a somewhat envious tone at that. Perkins is a physical freak, a statue-style specimen of minimal body fat…who would happily live on processed sugar products if allowed.

"I don't like to eat in the cafeteria that much," he admits. "But I have to eat. But I still have to go back and eat my candy, too!" Not just after regular meals, either. Perkins supplements his game-day diet with his favorite food group. "I eat a Snickers on Fridays before walk-throughs, and then I eat it before the game. Even though we eat right before the game, pasta and stuff like that, I've got to eat my candy."

The second contradictory fact: all of this is well known to a certain strength coach who is notorious on the subject of diet and conditioning. Yet somehow Perkins stays clear of Matt Balis' displeasure. "Nah, he doesn't try to stop me. He knows I'm going to keep doing it! He knows I'm going to work hard anyway."

Perkins certainly does that. And the ultra-carbs diet doesn't seem to drag him down on the field, either. Last week Perkins was called on to fill the starting tailback job of then-SEC-leading scorer and State's top rusher Vick Ballard; all the second-fall frosh did was roll up 131 yards on 18 rushes with a touchdown. And he accounted for State's other touchdown on a four-yard option sweep where QB Chris Relf flipped it forwards, a ‘pass' in official NCAA accounting though realistically just another sort of rushing play that the Bulldog offense thrives on.

"I think I did a pretty good job," said Perkins of his big game. The SEC also thought so, naming him their Freshman of the Week for the second time this season. "It's pretty exciting," Perkins agreed. But, he added, don't look at last week's award as any changing of the guard…tailback, rather. "Nah, I don't think Vick feels threatened! He shouldn't. Vick's a good player and he knows I'm a pretty good player, too. So everything is pretty good."

In fact, Perkins says, "I'm just ready for him to get back out there and do what he does." Even if it means yielding a lot of snaps and carries to the junior. Perkins reports that Ballard is looking good in practices again after taking a week off to protect a sore ankle. "It seemed like the same old Vick." The Ballard that got 20 rushes at Florida, he means, the night Perkins was limit to a single run. Yet these backs have bought into the rotation Dan Mullen and Les Koenning want to utilize all season.

"I mean, we know all can get the job done, including Rob Elliott, too," Perkins said. "So last week getting just one carry, it didn't bother me, because Vick had a great game and he carried the load and that's good. This week he wasn't able to carry the load so I tried to pick it up, me and Rob, and I think we did a pretty good job of it."

Perkins has done a fine job in his first varsity season too. Fans still wonder why the 5-10, 190 pounder is used so often between the tackles instead of racing for the corners. In fact turning-and-burning was Perkins' specialty at Greenville St. Joseph High. "Back in high school it seemed I was more an outside guy. But I feel like I can run it inside, outside, wherever they want me to run it."

He can because those listed dimensions don't tell the true story. Though Ballard and Elliott are both 215-pounders, Perkins somehow manages to look more physical; it's those door-width shoulders and bulging biceps. Oh, and he is fearless attacking between the tackles.

"Yeah, it's a point of pride. I mean, I feel just like Vick is a downhill runner, I can run downhill, too. And whatever they need me to do, I can do it. if going downhill is what they want me to do I feel I can do a good job of it."

A year ago Perkins was doing a fine job on the scout team as the designated wild quarterback, a role he's had one chance already this season to show with the varsity. More such use is planned as State uses athletes such as him, Ballard, WR Chad Bumphis, and more in the wild-back slot (or ‘special' as MSU calls it, no cutesy name necessary). OK, Perkins might not be asked to throw many more passes; his one attempt in the Georgia game didn't turn out so well. But he will surely have his wild turns to come.

He also should start seeing some real passes thrown his way, not just the option-pitches. He has the hands and the moves to make such plays out of the backfield. "I mean, the time will come. It's certain plays that we run are designed for me to get out there. And basically the running backs are check-downs for the quarterback, so whenever they check it down I'm going to be able to catch it."

All well and good. But, again, how can Perkins avoid catching it from Balis given his high-octane diet of sweets over meats? Or his big Dog blockers, for that matter, since they have to watch every ounce of intake? "J.C. says he doesn't know how because I eat a lot of different junk food. Anything I want to eat, I eat, and he doesn't understand how I stay ripped up. And Coach Balis says the same thing, Perkins I don't see how you eat all this candy and are 4% body fat."

Then again, as long as Perkins and State keep savoring the sweet taste of success this season, why mess with a good thing? Perkins' real challenge is deciding what his favored brand of snack-sweet is. "Oh, it's hard to pick just one! I like Reese's, Twix, Skittles. I love Skittles!" Ahh, so we know what Perkins will be looking hardest for in his Halloween bag?

"Oh yeah, I'm going to have a whole lot of candy next week," Perkins grins. "And if we take care of business it's even better." Or sweeter, rather.

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