“It’s going great. I mean it’s going pretty smooth. I know a lot more, it’s a lot easier for me this year.”
Easier to know what his running back job in Mississippi State’s offense involves, he means. That doesn’t mean Brandon Holloway expects an easy promotion to the position held by lead Dog Josh Robinson in 2014.
The point is, the smallest and fastest of Bulldog backs does intend to challenge for an even larger share of 2015 touches. Based on how he ran in both spring and so far during August practices, Holloway is earning the opportunity.
Not least, he said, because his comfort level in this system now matches his self-confidence.
“I’ve always had confidence. But I think I’m a lot more comfortable now that my knowledge is up there.”
What everyone knows about Holloway is his calling-card talent. The guy can run. That high school speed is why upon arrival here State put Holloway in the wide receiver group to make what looked like the best use of his speed. He did catch seven balls for a 11-yard average as a redshirt frosh.
But it became evident Holloway was better-suited for running after handoffs over running routes. Not that he isn’t still a natural option in the short passing schemes, of course. The notion of a quick flip to #10 as he squirts out of the backfield in the right matchup is irresistible.
Primarily though Holloway meets a backfield need of a speed guy to aim at a crease and stomp the accelerator. Even the idea of a 160-pounder punching ‘tween-the-tackles isn’t so outlandish as that’s what Holloway did in high school.
This is why Holloway is the image of a change-of-pace back. He likes it, too. “Yeah, I see myself as a pretty versatile guy,” he said.
“You know, I try to use my speed and stuff obviously because I’m a lot smaller than the other football players. But I think that’s an advantage to the team. You’ve got big running backs, then small running backs. I think it just opens up the field to everything we can do.”
And when Holloway says everything, he means everything. Which is a pretty fair description of Coach Dan Mullen’s spread-based offense. Certainly the running back room has a Bulldog to meet each option. There’s the big bruiser Ashton Shumpert; the redshirt tandem of Dontavian Lee and Aeris Williams who just themselves are mix-and-match guys in the running and passing schemes; and wild card Holloway with his built-in burst.
Oh, and that guy calling the cadence? Yeah. While Dak Prescott is supposed to throw more often this season and distribute to his variety of backs, it will not surprise a soul if he still ends up the leading Bulldog rusher.
“I feel we’ll be able to do a lot of things with our offense,” said Holloway. “I think that’s what Coach Mullen’s trying to get with all the different types of players. But we all know the same information, we run the same plays. I think it’s going to work out well.”
Notice that key comment; how all backs supposed to run the same plays. It means defensive coaches can’t just assume because Shumpert is in the game it’s a power run, or that when Holloway rotates in the play is headed outside. This is also a comment on how intense preseason teaching must be, if the first four runners are to know every possible play.
Holloway believes he’s at that stage and is now a comfortable Bulldog back in practices. “That’s really what it is, just knowledge,” he said.
“I mean we’ve all played football. We’ve been doing it our whole life. Coming into camp it’s usually so stressful going in because you’re young, you don’t really know a lot. Now that you know everything it makes it easier.”
What Holloway also knows is, with so many capable backs and for that matter a few receivers who will surely get their own touches in running plays, there might not be enough touches to keep everyone busy. Or happy. A veteran’s perspective helps.
“Oh, I’m just going to do my job. I’m not trying to do anything amazing, boss people around. Just go be a leader when I’m a leader and a follower when I should follow.”
The Bulldogs have wrapped up their week on the Farm and finished two-a-days. So practices return to the Seal Complex, which also means semester classes are about to begin. Mullen is to speak to media late Saturday afternoon to go over Thursday’s scrimmage results and discuss the rest of preseason.