Perk-ing Up As Game Week Nears

He's been through this August regimen before. Four times in fact. So LaDarius Perkins can sense when the team attitude is turning to intense. Like it is right now. "It's getting serious now," reports Perkins. "Game week is around the corner, the game is right around the corner."

Perkins and club certainly intend to turn that corner at full-strength and –speed alike. They must, since Mississippi State is meeting a top-twenty opponent coming from the other direction and only one will reach September with a full head of season-steam.

Thus, Perkins said, "We're just trying to take care of the small things, all the little basic things we need to take care of."

Small to Perkins maybe, but pretty big in the Bulldog gameplan. Mississippi State might not carry a ranking to Houston next weekend but this is a team being watched all the same.

With a record-setting quarterback, veteran runners and blockers, and a reinvigorated defensive approach, not to mention a couple of returning specialists, there is the potential here to wins games and rankings alike. Defeating Oklahoma State would be a fast start to both goals.

But winning requires a lot more attention to a lot more details than required of Bulldog teams in previous lidlifters. "So it's taking care of everything smoothly, go hard in practice and make sure we execute like we should," said Perkins.

The senior running back accepts an upperclassman's share of the making-sure. He's seen it all before of course, from his 2009 redshirting freshman season through three more varsity campaigns. They've been good years for Perkins and in the 2012 very very good. He became only the 12th Bulldog back to rush for 1,000 yards, and scored eight touchdowns in the process. Perkins begins the senior season with 2,012 rushing career yards and 20 total scores, 13 running and seven receiving.

He has every reason to expect to meet or exceed that total this last campaign…as well as possibly four good reasons why he might not. They are named Josh Robinson, Derrick Milton, Nick Griffin, and maybe even true freshman Ashton Shumpert. The three veterans are capable college backs in their own right, tested on SEC fields and eager to, shall we say, share some of the ball-carrying burden with the older Dog.

Is Perkins offended by such ambitions? Not at all. "Those guys deserve it. We all worked hard this summer, during the off-season and during camp. So those guys deserve it too. I'm fine with them rotating with me also because I know they can get the job done also."

There are a couple of lingering pre-season questions as to the depth chart of course. Shumpert's status is one to watch. The other is Griffin's health as he battles back from a second, in three years, knee injury. On this point Perkins has some hopeful news.

"He's looking pretty god right now, he hasn't been complaining about it much. Every now and then he'll mention it but he keeps pushing through it and that's why I respect him, he's been through a lot."

Speaking of resect, Perkins received a considerable compliment Thursday when the Coaches All-SEC preseason teams were announced. He was on the second-unit offense, just as he had been voted second-team All-SEC for the real '12 season by league media. Maybe some backs in other conferences would complain about second-squad status. In the ground-pounding SEC it is a real honor, and Perkins earned it with the 7th-best rushing rate among conference backs last fall. Opponents also know to respect his talents in the passing game which indications are can be utilized even more this season.

For that matter Perkins is Dog-set on expanding his touches. He's been a regular on kickoff returns for three years with 969 combined yards, but now wants to shift to the other special squad, to field and run back punts. Special teams coach Dan Mullen isn't opposed to the idea…neither is he committing at this point with a number of other excellent candidates to practice.

"I really want to do that, I've been working on that a lot during camp. We'll see how it goes when the season gets started."

Which as he's already noted is right around that proverbial corner. Perkins has taken the initial looks at Oklahoma State's defense and sees a full day's work in store. "They look like they're pretty swift, they can move pretty well. Their ends stand up a lot, I guess that's because they play in a more passing league. So they look pretty good out there."

Which means Mississippi State has to be better. Thus back to those small details. Of course with all the veterans around the running backs should have all the big things taken care of and can concentrate on the lesser items. Still there's another motivation behind showing attention to everything, per Perkins. If the veterans attack practice obsessively, so should everyone.

"And also just picking everybody up and bringing them to our level, because I feel we have one of the best groups on the team and we have a lot of leadership in the running back room to help the O-line, the D-line, everybody else on the team." And in this regard Perkins can offer a really positive review to his final preseason.

"We've executing a lot more this year. We're throwing the ball around, our receivers are getting open, the running backs are running the ball well, the offensive line is doing a great job blocking up front. So it's just keep progressing every day, everybody taking their film seriously and being critical of themselves so they can get better."

Those are good words from a Dog who has seen it August-all before. If Perkins says the offensive execution is improved, the opinion should be taken seriously. Just as the Bulldogs are taking that fast-approaching corner seriously.

"We just have to execute and take care of business, and we'll be fine."


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