Simple, huh? Well, as the season so far has shown, breaking tackles hasn’t been a Mississippi State strength. Or not until a few things began breaking the right way during the loss at Brigham Young. When sophomore Aeris Williams took over, the ground game took off…or at least took off by 2016 standards.
Now with the Bulldogs headed to Kentucky for the annual inter-Division meeting, Knox’s unit has higher demands to meet. Not just explosive runs, but the routine rushes which put the passing game in plus-situations and make conversion downs simpler.
Knox also is grading his full-health backs again this week to re-set a starter and rotation as long as senior Brandon Holloway is questionable with undisclosed injury.
The first two games State rushed for about 500 yards, what has been different the last four games? “I think as an offense we’re getting better each week. That’s one of the things, we’ve gotten better each week so our run game is getting better each week.”
“That’s one thing, as coaches you always want to see improvement from your team. And I think week after week we’re starting to get better and better and better. That comes with the young group we’ve got, they’re gaining experience. So the more they play, the more experience they get, the better we get as an offense.”
What did you see out of Aeris Williams, especially the second half? “He ran hard. Again I think a lot of credit goes to our o-line, they gave him some opportunities and he took advantage of them. I thought we really blocked well in the second half, the 0-line came off the ball, we started moving the line of scrimmage and he did a good job of taking advantage of it.”
Mullen talked about he’s learning other things, like protection and blocking. What has he done in practice to improve on those? “He’s working. He’s working. He knows he’s got to learn everything. He’s got to be detailed in everything he does.”
“And I think he’s becoming that player we want him to be and we expect him to be. The more detailed he becomes the better player he’s going to be.”
With Brandon Holloway unable to lay did you notice anything different about Aeris? “I think they all did. I think they all saw it as an opportunity. When they get an opportunity you’ve got to go out and make it happen. I thought he did a good job of that, of seizing the moment. Again, taking advantage of that opportunity and playing at a high level is what we talk about. And I think he did that.”
What can the running backs do to create more explosive plays? “Got to break more tackles. You know, once the o-line gets us in the secondary where we’re one-on-one with the safety or the cornerback we’ve got to win those plays. That’s where you create the big plays, when you’re able to make a safety miss; where you run through their tackle with your low pad level. So those are the things we like to see from here on out. Once we’re able to get into a secondary making it a bigger play than just a nine and ten yard gain.”
Is it frustrating you haven’t been able to get the freshmen Nick Gibson and Alec Murphy snaps? “I wish we could. I wish we did have some of those opportunities. But like you say we haven’t been in those situations. So hopefully sometime soon maybe we will be able to get those guys in the game. And again I’d love to see them in a live situation run the ball.”
With Holloway questionable how do you divvy-up the number-one reps? “No particular way. We just look at it during the week of practice. We grade them every practice and then we just go from there and make a decision on who is going to start.”
“And if you start that’s good. But the other guy is going to play too. So everybody has got to be ready to play and ready to take advantage of their opportunity.”