July 17, 2013 11:05:14 AM
HOOVER, Ala. - One of the more important statistics to track during the 2013 football season for Mississippi State University will be how many times does senior LaDarius Perkins touch the football?
Another way to get the senior tailback involved will be on punt returns.
"I'm used to the pressure of doing all that stuff but you have to remain focused on the field," Perkins said. "I've been going back and forth between offense and special teams my whole career."
Perkins confirmed Monday in a informal meeting with the local media that after speaking with MSU coach Dan Mullen, Perkins will likely be primary punt returner for the Bulldogs this season. MSU lost its primary punt returners in Chad Bumphis and Johnthan Banks last year to graduation.
The 5-foot-10, 195-pounder has been involved in the run game, as a slot receiver and on kickoff returns in his previous three seasons. However it appears Perkins, who is coming off a 2012 campaign where he was just the ninth player in MSU history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season, will substitute kick return duties for punt return work in 2013.
"I talked with Coach Mullen about this and he told me to just get with Coach (wide receivers coach Billy) Gonazalez and get prepared to do that," Perkins said. "You'll see me slide out to wide receiver and catching the ball out of the backfield as well."
The only time Perkins has returned a punt in a game was two years ago in the 2011 Egg Bowl rivalry game in Oxford after MSU's primary punt returner Chad Bumphis broke his clavicle during the game. His punt return against Ole Miss was for 16 yards in a 31-23 victory where he had 319 all-purpose yards.
Perkins, who leads a MSU depth chart at tailback that includes Josh Robinson, Derrick Milton and Nick Griffin, is a member of the watch list for the 2013 Maxwell Award, given annually to the nation's top player and named 2013 preseason All-Southeastern Conference by Athlon Sports and Phil Steele. He is currently sixth all-time in Mississippi State history with 3,463 career all-purpose yards.
"Our depth helps out a lot because if I'm doing punt returns and I need a breather, then you could have Josh, Nick, Derrick and Shumpert out there right now because we don't know his (redshirt) situation," Perkins said.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
5. Pulitzer finalist Martin to deliver reading Thursday ENTERTAINMENT