Steve Robertson - Genespage.com

Senior running back looking for redemption

Mississippi State took a by committee approach when it came to the running game last season. In his junior season. Ashton Shumpert was promoted to RB1 in large part to the early departure of 2014 star rusher Josh Robinson. Shumpert and his fellow backs did their best to work through a season where their personnel group was clearly in transition. In his final season in Starkville, Shumpert looks to leave on the proverbial high note.

"I feel excited," Ashton Shumpert said of the upcoming season. "I am trying to get the best out of it that I can."

Entering the 2015 season, Shumpert was expected to take over the lion's share of the running responsibilities. The Itawamba AHS product ran for 228 yards and one score on 59 attempts. The yards gained were actually a step back from Shumpert's 2014 production that saw him rush for 274 yards as a sophomore.

Over the course of this summer, Shumpert appears to have trimmed up and appears lighter on his feet. The rising senior hopes to put together the best season of his college career this fall.

"From a physical standpoint, I feel like I'm in pretty great shape," Shumpert said. "You know putting a helmet on is a whole 'nother level."

Looking for the next level of production is Mississippi State running backs' coach Greg Knox. Shumpert hit a bit of a slump midway through the season. Knox reports that despite seeing a reduction in playing time, Shumpert never gave up on himself or the team.

"He never flinched," Knox said of Shumpert. "I thought this spring he took a giant step. I think hopefully this fall, we will see a different Shumpert. I really thought after the bowl game that things began to go his way. He really began to understand what he needed to do in order to be successful.

"He had a good summer. He's a worker. You can roll a ball out there any day of the week and he's ready to go play. He is a guy that is going to work hard and give you everything he's got."

The Bulldogs went in full pads on Saturday for the first time this season as Coach Dan Mullen and his staff took the team down to the south farm for the true start of fall camp. While down among the cattle, the battle for Bulldog back supremacy will take place. Shumpert reports that he expects the competition to be fierce,

"I don't know where I stand right now," Shumpert said. "We are just all competing. I see my role the same as it was last year. Maybe me and (Brandon) Holloway can switch and he can be the thumper and I can be the speedy guy."

All joking about role reversals aside, Shumpert has a tremendous amount of respect for his fellow senior and stablemate, Holloway.

"Holloway is a bad man," Shumpert said with a grin. "What is he like 5-7 and 170 something. It takes a bad man to play running back in the SEC. We can switch up with him and go with speed and other times with power. It's sort of hard to tackle him, because he's so short."

The Bulldogs have some talented young backs who are hungry for their own shot at taking the hand off in front of the Davis Wade crowd. Redshirt sophomores Dontavian Lee and Aeris Williams are joined by redshirt frosh Nick Gibson and Alec Murphy to comprise a talented quartet of underclassmen at Coach Knox' disposal.

"They are getting better," Shumpert said of his understudies. "Their main focus is basically to learn the plays and offense."

Mississippi State will go through 10 practices in eight days down on the south farm before making the return to the regular practice fields on August 14th. Once school is in session, the Bulldogs will begin to trim their practice schedule down to the regular game week routine.

Mississippi State will host South Alabama in week one on September 3rd. Kickoff is set for 11 A.M., so Bulldog fans need to prepare for some intense heat and sun. Sunscreen and clear beverages are encouraged.


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