A Q&A with RB/FB Coach Greg Knox

Mississippi State running backs/fullbacks coach Greg Knox talks about his running backs and fullbacks, how they did this past spring and who is projected to be on the 1st team and who are their backups.

Who is leading the race for the starting position?
Greg Knox - "Right now, our top two guys coming out of the spring would be Robert Elliott and Vick Ballard. We are really pleased with Vick, his work ethic, his study habits, he was very attentive in meeting. He really worked at learning the offense, which is big for a junior college guy coming into a new system. I thought he put himself in position to help us in the fall.

"With (Robert) Elliott, I saw a lot of things that I hadn't seen out of him, things that we needed to see. He looks like a kid that could have a really good fall, kind of coming into his own. With him playing with Anthony Dixon and not having to carry the load really helped him to learn a lot. I think he is now really ready for the role to be the guy. I see he and Ballard as two guys who put themselves in a position to play and share equal time."

What were some of the things you saw from Elliott that you hadn't seen before?
"Right now, I can see the difference in him hitting the hole in the fall as compared to how he hit it in the spring, which tells me he really wasn't sure. I think his knowledge has increased, which has increased his speed of playing. A lot of times when kids are thinking and not reacting they play a lot slower. And I saw Robert play a lot faster in the spring."

They are different type backs, aren't they?
"They are different backs with different styles. But both can be very productive in their styles. They still have a lot of work to do, though."

Who would be the immediate backups behind those two?
"You have LaDarius Perkins and Montrell Conner, two freshmen. The biggest thing with Conner was his setback due to his knee injury. That cost him to miss about five days of practice, which hurt him tremendously. He's still playing catch-up on the mental part of the game. When he gets the mental part of the game, he'll play a lot faster. Perkins had a good spring and showed signs of being very production and showed signs of being a home run hitter. There are certain ways that we will try to use him in our offense. I think he has put himself in position to get some playing time."

Are all four of those guys different type runners?
"They are all different. I don't think any of them are even close. Montrell is a bigger back, more powerful, but still with a lot of quickness. He doesn't have the speed of an Elliott or a Ballard but he brings a lot more size to the table."

Is Conner similar to Anthony Dixon?
"He could be like Anthony, but he's still developing."

Who is leading at the fullback position?
"I am very, very pleased with the fullback position. I like our experience and our depth. Patrick Hanrahan and Sylvester Hemphill are the top two right now. They are two kids with tremendous knowledge of the system. They really played well this spring. I think the winter conditioning program helped them. They are really, really good players. Back in the old days, they would be your true I fullback. Anytime you can get two really good players like they are as walk-ons, that is just unbelievable. They are co-starters.

"William Shumpert and Adrian Marcus are the next two. Both of them are showing signs of learning the offense. I think they can help us on special teams, but I think their best football is ahead of them."

I've heard some good things about Shumpert.
"Shumpert is a very physical player who will hit you. And he brings a lot when he hits you. He is about 240. When he hits you, you are going to remember it. He has a reputation on the team. Everybody knows when he's in there you better buckle up because he is going to hit you."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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