Senior Bulldog Back Expects Shared Rushing Load in 2016 Season

Brandon Holloway is too seasoned, too smart to come right out and say so. Or not until he’s been pushed on which Bulldog running back will get the initial handoff of 2016.

“Oh, everybody wants the first one! But the first one doesn’t matter as much as the last one when you get the win.”

Spoken like an old Dog unwilling to court controversy ahead of kickoff. Then again it might help senior halfback Holloway keep the keel even because…well, he is the ranking backfield Bulldog. And he is expected to get the starting assignment for this 2016 opener.

After the start, heck make that after the opening day, everything else about running back this season is up for grabs. There are six, count ‘em, six runners on the roster and every one expecting to haul the ball this fall.

Which will happen, Holloway predicts.

“I think it plays out well. And I think it’s kind of the same, except we have more people in our arsenal.”

Holloway has his place there. He’s also the returning ‘starter’ from 2015, opening eight games. Only Dak Prescott finished with more rushing yards than Holloway’s 413.

And if Holloway did not rush for a touchdown all last year, he did score on five of his 33 receptions. He also put up the first Bulldog points of the whole year on a goal-to-goal kickoff return at Southern Mississippi. That points to Holloway’s all-around potential. So does the fact hee and Stanford star Christian McCaffrey are the only ’15 FBS returnees with 400 rushing, 300 receiving, and 500 returning yards.

Still, with the heavy (and in the other five cases they are all heavier than Holloway’s listed 165 pounds) competition for snaps, nothing is promised this season. Nor does Holloway worry. Taking turns is the way this offense needs to go.

“Hey, you get in, one pressure play, the next guy gets in. We rotate in and out. But I feel that’s the best way to do it. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and Coach Mullen knows how to play to that well.”

Dan Mullen did indicate Monday Holloway and Ashton Shumpert, the seniors of this sextet, are his lead Dogs. But the coach also noted that where Holloway is the speed back and Shumpert the power guy, a third combines some of those. Which bodes well for soph Aeris Williams’ opportunities moving forward.

Holloway agreed Williams can count on more playing time, and also spoke up for classmate Dontavian Lee.

“So I think it will work out really well.”

It needs to. After a heavy emphasis on the air game last fall, Mississippi State intends returning to the ground-pounding of most Mullen seasons. OK, so that has much to do with Prescott’s graduation to the NFL. Prescott was also State’s lead rusher though.

So, there’s a great big load to be shared now. Just as expected, per Holloway.

“I mean, we knew when Dak was here he wouldn’t be here the next year. So it was planned out we would have to step up our game and account for the rushing yards.” Holloway also believes the offensive line is improved with a trio of seniors to build around.

Now, about the announced starting quarterback. Holloway gets a grin from Mullen giving the nod to ‘Nick Williams’ rather than commit on Monday to either Nick Fitzgerald or Damian Williams. “And I feel like that’s a good comment by him! That’s a good pressure everybody wants to know that right now. But I guess we’ll all find out!”

But seriously, folks…

“They definitely have two different playing styles. Nick likes to run a lot, he can also pass. Damian’s definitely a strong passer and he’s strong body-wise. So I think they compete a little bit.”

“I think they’ve improved. I think their leadership role has increased a lot and knowing that one of them will have to be that starter has helped their leadership.”

Yes, there has to be a starting quarterback. A running back, too. Holloway can’t hide, he’d like to again have the first snap and rush in a season. Especially as this year it will be on the home field. If not?

“I don’t think anybody is worried about it. Right now the key is to win and I think that’s what we’re focusing on.”

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