Dixon returns to give added boost to Mississippi State backfield

September 11, 2009 8:46:00 AM

Danny P Smith -


Greg Knox has plenty of weapons at Mississippi State. 


As the running backs coach, Knox has a reason to smile with three seniors and one sophomore at his position. 


"We''ve got good depth at running back," Knox said. "Our talent is good there. We try to use all of those guys because they can do different things." 


Knox, who was an assistant coach at Auburn University from 1999-2008, said production from the running backs will be key Saturday when MSU takes on Auburn at 6 p.m. (FOX Sports Net South) at Auburn. 


Robert Elliott, the sophomore, had 80 yards rushing on 11 carries in the Bulldogs'' season--opening 45-7 victory against Jackson State. 


Senior Arnil Stallworth had 31 yards rushing and 28 receiving, and classmate Christian Ducre'' added 24 yards rushing. 


MSU will add senior Anthony Dixon to that mix this week. He sat out the Jackson State game due to a suspension. 


MSU coach Dan Mullen said Dixon has served his punishment and credited him for being an unselfish teammate. Mullen liked the support Dixon showed from the sideline. 


The Bulldogs are glad to have Dixon, who was arrested and pled guilty to a driving under the influence charge, back for action. 


"Dixon is a strong leader," said Elliott, who looks up to all three seniors and tries to feed off their energy. 


Mullen said depth at running back allows the Bulldogs to have fresh legs in the ballgame. He wants the running backs to be just as effective in the fourth quarter as they are in the first. 


"Coach Mullen always says the running backs should be the strongest part of the offense," Stallworth said. "He told us that all of us had to work hard because we''re having to split it up between 70 plays. That''s about 15-20 plays per person. Whoever is going to work the hardest is going to get the most playing time." 


Mullen said player rotations will depend on the length of the series or the play call. 


Elliott doesn''t see any problem with that plan. 


"Whenever our number is called, we''re going to be ready to go," Elliott said. 


Offensive coordinator Les Koenning hasn''t had any complaints from the running backs. 


"Anytime you have all those kids playing, they are happy," Koenning said. "As long as we''re moving the ball, I''m happy." 


The Auburn Tigers also have more than one option in the backfield, too. 


Senior running back Ben Tate is 12th in school history in rushing, but freshman Onterio McCalebb had a team-high with 148 yards rushing last week in a 37-13 win against Louisiana Tech.  


Auburn coach Gene Chizik said he''s always looking for ways to get more players involved. 


"The more the merrier," Chizik said. "There are not too many weeks for us to catch our breath going all the way up to the Alabama game. It''s going to be a long season, especially when we get to the meat of the SEC schedule. I think it''s important to have two or three running backs." 


Chizik likes the ability Tate and McCalebb have to run inside or outside, and said they have to do both. 


Knox has kept up with Auburn after leaving last year. He appreciates the effort of a good running back and said that''s what the Tigers get out of Tate. 


"He''s one of the best backs in this league," Knox said. "He''s been involved with that offense since he was a freshman." 




Tickets going fast 


The MSU athletic department announced Thursday afternoon that less than 1,000 season tickets remain. 


With single-game sellouts of LSU, Florida, and Alabama announced, the only way to attend those games is to have a season ticket. 


Season tickets are still available at a discounted $240 at the Bryan Athletic Administration ticket office at 1-8888-463-2947. 


Mullen thanked everyone who made the third-largest crowd of 54,232 possible for the Jackson State game. He hopes that support continues the rest of the season. 


"We want all our fans and students keep showing up so we can make (Davis Wade Stadium) a hard place to play," Mullen said. "We (want to) make game days in the fall an event. It''s not just a game, but it''s an event." 




Staying healthy 


The flu bug has hit the MSU campus, but it has yet to be an issue for the football team. 


Mullen said there are a couple of players "under the weather," but the trainers have instructed them to get plenty of rest and to drink plenty of fluids. 


As a precautionary measure, the Bulldogs took extra vitamins after Thursday''s practice. 


"It''s important we stay healthy," Mullen said. "I anticipate everyone to be healthy come Saturday. We''re not going to let a runny nose or little cough get in our way of playing hard." 




Green gets counseling 


Sophomore tight end Marcus Green is getting counseling as part of a deferred prosecution arrangement with Oktibbeha County Justice Court after his July arrest on misdemeanor charges of marijuana and drug paraphernalia possession. 


The charges against Green are to be retired upon the completion of the counseling. 


MSU team spokesman Joe Galbraith said Green has completed unspecified discipline within the program. 


Green caught three passes for 40 yards and a touchdown against Jackson State. 




Greet the Bulldogs 


Any MSU fans in the Montgomery, Ala., area today can meet the football team when it arrives at the hotel at 6:30 p.m. 


The Bulldogs are staying at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 300 Tallapoosa St., Montgomery, Ala. 


"We know some of the fans are traveling there, and we''re going to give you a team to be proud of again this week," Mullen said.