April 20, 2013 10:41:52 PM
STARKVILLE - It started out as a joke but Brandon Holloway didn't think the idea of moving to tailback was very funny.
Mississippi State senior quarterback Tyler Russell painted the scene well that two weeks ago after LaDarius Perkins was being held out of practices due to concussion symptoms and Josh Robinson was out with a shoulder issue, the Bulldogs offense needed some temporary tailbacks.
"(MSU running backs coach Greg Knox) went to Brandon I think to be funny honestly and said 'you wanna play some running back again," Russell said. "I watched Brandon look him straight in the eye and say 'I'll do anything to help the team'. That may be how it started but it may become a real thing because he's got special speed that's for sure."
In a roundabout way without even knowing he was doing it, the Bulldogs running backs coach created what he called Tuesday "a spark" in his position group by inviting Brandon Holloway back to his old position.
With the two running backs on MSU's spring depth chart out with unknown injuries, senior LaDarius Perkins and sophomore Josh Robinson, Knox and MSU head coach Dan Mullen knew they needed more bodies to perform with the first and second-string offense. Holloway, who is considered one of the fastest members of the team, was more than happy to fill in what now might be a permanent switch.
"Holloway comes in and makes a few explosive plays and gets everybody kind of nervous over there," Mullen said. "At the running back position, when you look at how slim that is right now, when I look at spring I want to see are the guys we're counting on making the plays we need to make? That is a critical aspect of it."
Holloway, a redshirt freshaman, stole the show as the converted running back by getting 128 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns.
It is unknown if Holloway will remain an option at tailback in the fall but his 4.3-second speed in the 40-yard dash before he arrived on campus makes him an available weapon in multiple formations and positions for the Bulldogs offense.
"My goal this offseason is to make sure I know both positions," Holloway said. "I don't want this coaching staff having any reservations about putting me anywhere on the football field. Tyler (Russell) and I are tight so we'll be working on our own on so many things this summer."
While a three-star prospect without a specific position coming out of Alonso High School in Tampa, Fla., Holloway ran for 904 yards and 10 touchdowns on 134 carries his senior season two years ago, while also catching 19 passes for 304 yards and seven touchdowns.
"I'm getting accustomed to wide receiver at Mississippi State but the switch back to running back right now is natural to me (because) I've been doing that my whole life," Holloway said. "The key is I'm trying to be versatile in any position they put me in and that way I'm always on the field helping this team. That's my goal - to never leave the field."
Knox said Tuesday after a spring practice that the 5-foot-7 tailback may possess the skills that could lead him to be more than a stopgap option through the remainder of the spring.
"He can put his foot in the ground and make a cut as quick as you imagine," Knox said. "Anybody that possesses that home run speed is somebody you have to find ways to get the ball to no matter the position."
Every time Saturday Holloway turned the corner on a handoff or a flair pass from MSU walk-on quarterback Sam Cowart, he got positive yards and ended the Maroon-White spring game at Davis Wade Stadium with an impressive 56-yard run that could've easily been a touchdown if not for a saving tackle from an angle perspective by the MSU safety.
"Brandon Holloway is one of those guys that once you hand him the football, you sit back there and think to yourself 'well, that's a first down'," Cowart said. "It's just a go gear in terms of speed that normal people just don't have. It makes a quarterback's job much easier that's for sure."
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