Will Malik Dear be the Feature Running Back for Mississippi State?


Sep 26, 2015; Auburn, AL, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs receiver Malik Dear (22) runs past Auburn Tigers defensive back Tray Matthews (28) during the first quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a new week for Mississippi State, and yet, it’s deja vu all over again. It’s yet another week in which I try to determine if one of the players on the team wants to take charge of the running back responsibilities for the Bulldogs.

This week’s candidate is Malik Dear.

The deficiencies in the running game are well documented. Dan Mullen had stuck primarily with Ashton Shumpert and Brandon Holloway through the first four games of the season. He was doing the same early on in the game, and when the two of them continued to be unproductive, he turned to the freshmen.

The Bulldogs have two redshirt freshmen on the team in Aeris Williams and Dontavian Lee. They were the likely candidates to get the bulk of the carries if Mullen ever went away from the two veterans on the team.

They also have true freshman Malik Dear. We haven’t really known if Malik Dear was going to play running back or wide receiver. The one thing many have said is that he looks and runs a lot like a back familiar to Mississippi State fans.

To further cement the comparison to Robinson, Malik Dear broke off a 52 yard touchdown run during the second quarter of Mississippi State’s loss to the Texas A&M Aggies. It was a thing of beauty, and it was the first sign of life from what had been a dormant Mississippi State ground game outside of what Dak Prescott did on Saturday. People responded appropriately.

So will we make Malik Dear the new feature back for Mississippi State? It’s hard to say based off of this one game. The only other carry he received was negated on a penalty. And on that play, he was hit pretty hard, and we didn’t see him again. When asked about why Dear did not get any more carries, Mullen said he was “banged up”.

Exactly what “banged up” means will go a long way to determining how much Dear will play going forward. If he was taken out for precautionary reasons, I expect the coaching staff to find more ways to utilize his talent. They also like Williams and Lee, so don’t expect the coaches to give up on them. Williams looked good until he fumbled the ball inside the ten yard line for the Bulldogs.

We also have to remember one thing about Dear. BeastManSteve reminded me of something this morning.

Based off of what we saw in the second half, I expect the freshmen to start getting the bulk of the carries. I will be looking this week to see if the coaching staff uses these next two weeks against Troy and Louisiana Tech to incorporate them more into the offense. They might have been given the ball more against the Aggies, but the younger players have not likely received the same reps in practice that Shumpert and Holloway have. Having Dak run the ball as much as he did was probably not the plan, but the Aggies can be run on, and the younger players simply didn’t have the practice or game experience for the coaching staff to start handing the ball off to them repeatedly.

As for Shumpert and Holloway, I expect Shumpert to continue to be the “starter”. Mullen will not take that role completely away from him, and Holloway might be inserted in the second offensive series of the game. But the number of carries they both are given likely starts to decrease drastically going forward.

So to answer the question, Malik Dear will be the leader for most carries going into the next two weeks, assuming the coaching staff moves him from receiver to running back. Aeris Williams is not far behind, and he might have continued to get the ball had he not fumbled. I’d personally like to see those two become a nice one two punch like the Bulldogs have had in the past.

Malik Dear may not be the feature back, but if we learned anything against the Aggies, it is clear the Bulldogs are going younger at running back.

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