Steve Robertson -

Young Bulldog Back Takes Advantage of Extra Snaps and Added Muscle

Practice ended 90 minutes earlier. Or it did for most every other Bulldog. Not Nick Gibson. So he was almost apologetic showing up for interviews with Seal Complex doors locked and lights turned off.

Almost apologetic. Gibson was going about business.

“That’s why I’m the last one leaving out of here. Because I’ve been putting in extra work, running the hills so I can be great one day.”

It is a great 2017 attitude for this rising-sophomore running back. Gibson knows where he stands on the spring depth chart. He just doesn’t intend to stay there.

“I love the process. And I stay prayed-up and stay grinding. That’s all I can do. And when the time comes even if the coaches pick somebody else you guys can tell who is number-one.”

OK, not that sportswriter opinion will matter much in deciding who does what come fall. The idea still holds true. Gibson has to grind his way into a regular role himself. But the early indications seem positive.

Besides, “You have no choice but pick it up. Or, you’ll be on the sideline. You definitely don’t what that!”

Two seasons of waiting and working have left Gibson hungry. He redshirted in 2015; then in ’16 was down the list with classmate Alec Murphy at a six-deep position. There were at least some mop-up opportunities in three games, with 19 carries and 57 yards.

So yes, the guy is hungry. He’s also much better prepared for opportunities. For one thing Gibson has bulked-up to targeted size. ‘When I weighed in today it was 212, 213.” OK, as compared to…?

“Oh, man, when I walked on campus I think I was like 195?” This means Gibson is one of the lucky young Dogs free to feed. That’s good.

So is affirmation from a non-team source.

“Well, I kind of like it because my girlfriend says I’m getting bigger. So it kind of makes me feel manly, I guess!” Macho or whatever, muscle matters in Mississippi State’s plans.

“And Coach (Greg) Knox said I had to gain weight. He wanted me at 215. So I’m just two pounds shy but it’s just the spring. When the season comes I’ll be 215.”

That won’t be the final scale measuring Gibson’s fitness for football though. The extra-work approach is a touch ironic too because this spring the varsity running back group is half-the-size of ’16. Aeris Williams is lead Dog of course, with junior classmate Dontavian Lee. Then it’s back to Gibson, since fellow soph Murphy is sidelined for spring by injury.

Meaning, there is no shortage of snaps in regular practices for Gibson. Good, he said.

“I’m ready for all the carries that I get. Not even the carries, just to show I can pick up my protections, let them know that I’m an all-down back. Not just the rushing yards because I’m great at that. It’s the things I needed to work on, to put on the film to show the coaches.”

Gibson’s confidence in toting talents is legitimate. He was a 5A level star at Pinson Valley High, a noted power-back who didn’t try to dodge a lot of tacklers. Nor need to.

That gameplan has changed of course. Gibson has focused on the finer points, the technical aspects of how to simply take a handoff and hit an assigned spot at the correct time. No more grab and go, in other words.

“Yeah, it’s a big deal. Because in high school it’s just Nick-left, Nick-right. Now in college you have to do certain things to free other people. It’s not just about you.” Certainly not with a proven producer like Williams and seasoned blocker-back like Lee already here.

So, again, Gibson will take every possible practice rep and then extra if allowed, just to show Knox and staff what he has learned.

“Because if you’re going to be every-down back, an all-purpose back, you’ve got to know how to block, how to catch.” The how-to-run, well, that’s assumed.

What matters is Gibson has thrown himself into developing those non-carry skills with a passion. ““I take pride in my blocking and my catching, and everything else just like I do my runs. I do enjoy it. “You have to make adjustments if you’re trying to get someplace.”

Where he wants to get, naturally, is into the starting lineup. Or at least a regular rotation role for 2017. Early indications are Gibson is on that track and only picking up steam. As, that is, he picks up both the pounds and the experience blocking, running routes, catching passes, even just decoying defenders.

“I know the running game is going to come. Because I’m a natural runner. It’s the other things I want to impress the coaches at.”

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