STARKVILLE — Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen took the first step to rebuilding a depleted backfield Wednesday by signing Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College running back Vick Ballard.
The Bulldogs also added Ballard”s Mississippi Gulf Coast teammate James Carmon, a 6-foot-7, 370-pound defensive tackle, Wednesday, the first day that junior college players could sign with four-year schools.
After the graduation of MSU”s all-time leading rusher Anthony Dixon and Christian Ducre” and Arnil Stallworth, Mullen has emphasized running backs in recruiting.
Mullen believes the Bulldogs have landed a find in Ballard, a National Junior College Athletic Association first-team All-American. Mullen compares Ballard to Ducre”.
“He”s someone who can do a lot of different things,” Mullen said. “You can move him around to different spots. He can catch the ball and run the ball. He”s a very smart and intelligent player.”
Ballard had 1,728 yards and 22 touchdowns for MGCCC as a sophomore.
Mullen said the signing of a running back like Ballard is only the start.
“After losing three senior tailbacks, we still have a lot of holes to fill at that spot,” Mullen said. “You saw how we used our tailbacks and we want to continue that.
“It”s good to have someone to give us some immediate depth, but we need more running backs. We”re looking for fast ones with good moves who are big and strong. If we can find three or four Anthony Dixons out there, we”ll take them. You want guys who are productive.”
As for Carmon, Mullen said he brings instant size to a defensive line he considered “undersized for the Southeastern Conference” last season.
“He”s one of the biggest human beings I”ve ever seen in my life,” Mullen said of Carmon. “He”s going to be solid.
Mullen likes adding Carmon to the mix, especially considering how freshmen Fletcher Cox and Josh Boyd developed this season.
After an initial meeting between Mullen, Carmon, and strength coach Matt Balis, they believe Carmon would be best at a playing weight in the 345-pound range.
“We have to see how he handles different weights,” Mullen said. “That could be up or down, but we”ll see as conditioning goes through this offseason. We want him as big as he can be.”
Mullen expects Ballard and Carmon to enroll in January so they can participate in spring practice.
n No timetable on replacing Torbush: Mullen isn”t anxious about finding a replacement for defensive coordinator Carl Torbush, who earlier this week accepted the same position at the University of Kansas.
Since he has been on the road recruiting, Mullen hasn”t given the situation much thought. He hasn”t ruled out changing titles of current assistants and promoting from within.
“I”m going to sit down, really evaluate some things, and talk with our guys,” Mullen said. “We want someone who is going to fit in with our staff.”
Mullen said MSU won”t change its style of defense. He plans to be heavily involved no matter who is named defensive coordinator.
“Everybody thinks I just do offense, but I spend a great amount of time with the defense and have a lot of input there,” Mullen said.
Several assistant coaches will be out recruiting until Saturday and Mullen plans to meet with the staff next Monday or Tuesday. They then will take a few days off for Christmas.
Mullen said Torbush never gave him a reason why he left MSU. He said it came down to Torbush thinking about the move, praying about it, and making the decision.
“Carl always handled everything extremely professional the whole time he was here and did this the same way,” Mullen said. “I didn”t get into any more than that with him.”
Torbush”s decision didn”t catch Mullen by surprise because he said he expects to lose assistants, especially when a program becomes successful.
“We might be doing something right around here,” Mullen said. “That”s going to happen in the football profession.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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