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April 14, 2011It took nearly two months into his redshirt freshman campaign. But down the home stretch in 2010, Mississippi State's LaDarius Perkins began to display his talent in the open field.
Whether it was in the backfield, catching passes or returning kickoffs, Perkins became one of the Bulldogs' best, if not the best, home run threat late last season. The Greenville (Miss.) native ranked third on the team with 566 rushing yards and three touchdowns and averaged 5.6 yards a carry, which was tops among the running backs.
In the passing game, Perkins had nine catches for 247 yards and three scores, too, and had a team-best 27.4 yards a catch.
But this offseason Perkins is focused on taking his game to new "level".
"My expectations are to just compete more, do my job and do my job well," said Perkins. "I just want to make plays and do whatever Coach (Dan) Mullen and Coach (Greg) Knox ask me to do. I want to take my game to a whole other level.
"And we have a lot of capable backs. Even though Nick Griffin is down right now, he will be back by the time the season starts. With Vick Ballard and Robert Elliott and Nick and myself, we have plenty of depth. All of the guys can tote the ball, do their job right and do well in pass protections. We all have to do our part and take our offense to a new level."
Perkins came to MSU two years ago and was mainly known for his speed and quickness. Nearing 200 pounds, Perkins also showed last year he is capable of breaking tackles as well as running by defenders.
However, he is nowhere near satisfied with his current speed on the gridiron.
"I have just really been working on my speed and that was my top thing this whole offseason, " said the 5-foot-10 and 195-pound Perkins. "When I break into the open field, I have been working to where I can set up the defensive guys and be able to run past them."
Perkins displayed some of that improved quickness this spring when given opportunities in open space. So it was easy to see how Perkins spent most of his offseason workouts.
"Just working with Coach (Matt) Balis and our speed school we had on Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons," said Perkins. "We just work on our take-offs, our techniques and just basically how to run fast.
"We haven't timed ourselves yet and last year we waited until a couple of weeks after spring. I ran a 4.39 last year and my goal is to get in the 4.2 range this year."
Perkins also added a new role late last year on special teams. He began getting opportunities to return kickoffs and finished the year with 14 returns for 281 yards. It was a role that Perkins continued this spring and just another way for him to make plays for the Bulldogs.
"Last year I started doing that late in the season," noted Perkins. "That is what I was hoping to do and that part of the game is a lot of fun to me. I feel I can do pretty well in that role."
Perkins also served as a nice change of pace for the Bulldogs' backfield with rising senior Vick Ballard. While Ballard was often the workhorse at tailback, Perkins would bring a different style to the offense and was more versatile in the passing game as well.
And like any good duo in the SEC, Perkins said they help to motivate each other on and off the field.
"When he has good runs, I compliment him and he does the same for me," said Perkins. "We like to compete with each other. If I go hard, he tries to go harder and if he goes hard, then I try to go even harder. We just try to do our job on the field and just compete."
And motivation is also what helped keep Perkins focused in 2009 when he was sitting out and redshirting in his first year on campus. That process helped him to be ready to produce instantly when his chance arrived. Of course, those chances presented late in the 2010 campaign, and no doubt Perkins was anxious and willing to make them count.
So while he was a surprise weapon to some observers last year, Perkins expected to have that kind of success.
"Yea, I did because the whole time I was redshirting all I was thinking about was getting on the field," said Perkins. "I knew I couldn't redshirt so last year it was time for me to do my job. It was time to wake up, do my job and learn everything that was going on. Now it's my job to take my game to another level and be a lot better than last year."