August 9, 2010

Mullen taking offense to new heights

After having an offense ranked in the triple digits for so many years recently, 2009 was a breath of fresh air for Mississippi State fans.

Dan Mullen was heralded as an offensive guru since his hire and certainly proved to be as advertized in year one. The Bulldogs increased their offensive productivity by nearly 100 yards a game and led the entire Southeastern Conference in rushing picking up 228 yards on the ground.

The Bulldogs did graduate the school's all-time leading rusher from a year ago in Anthony Dixon. The now San Francisco 49er led the league with 1,391 yards last year. MSU also lost two other quality senior backs in Christian Ducre and Arnil Stallworth but do not plan to change their intentions to run the football again this fall.

"We're not going to shy away from running the football this year," Mullen said. "I think a lot of our focus at times last year was to get Anthony the ball. When you spread the ball and the wealth around in the backfield it actually opens your offense up more and makes you more productive running the football. We are going to run plays that we think are going to be good schematically and it doesn't matter who is going to touch the ball instead of focusing on getting one individual player the ball. I really think that will make the offense perform at a much higher level."

Junior Robert Elliott is the only experienced back the Bulldogs have returning but added some backfield aid with the signing of junior college All-American Vick Ballard. State also adds Montrell Conner and LaDarius Perkins in the mix after a redshirt season in 2009. Mississippi State also signed former Dandy Dozen selection Nick Griffin to bolster the ground game as well.

"Vick Ballard has done a great job but is still learning the system," Mullen said. "He's a very consistent player and a hard, hard worker everyday at practice. He doesn't say a whole lot but just comes to work and works as hard as he can. Montrell Conner is a big powerful back in the way that Dixon was for us. He has that size and power running ability. He also has some speed and elusiveness to go with it. He can wear people down throughout the course of a game. LaDarius Perkins is probably the fastest back but the smallest. He brings a different tempo when he's in there.

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