The Mississippi State recruiting class finished inside the top 25 and the headliner was Chris Jones (Houston, Ms. Houston), but one player flying under the radar is athlete, Ashton Shumpert (Fulton, Ms/ Itawamba Agricultural), the Gatorade Player of the Year in Mississippi.
Shumpert rushed for 1,796 yards, averaging 11 yards per rush and 25 touchdowns as a senior despite having to miss a few games due to illness. He also proved to be a capable receiver out of the backfield, adding 205 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Some schools were recruiting Shumpert to play safety, where he finished with 64 tackles and two interceptions this season, but running backs coach, Greg Knox was among the primary recruiters along with Scott Sallach for Shumpert, and is going to be a feature back in Dan Mullen’s backfield.
The Bulldogs return rising senior LaDarius Perkins who led the team with 1,024 yards and eight touchdowns, but at 5’10” and 190 pounds, could benefit from having Shumpert take some carries and keep him fresh.
Shumpert is a strong runner between-the-tackles and a downhill type of runner so a combination of Perkins and Shumpert will be reminiscent of the backfield the Bulldogs featured in 2011 with Vick Ballard and Perkins complementing each other with an inside-outside approach.
The concern with Shumpert is his height at 6’2” can tend to run too high and expose himself to hits. When he runs with a low pad level his leg drive and ability to break tackles and move the pile is what makes him special. He isn’t the fastest back and he will not wow you with jaw-dropping jukes, but Shumpert can get to the edge and take it the distance on occasion.
When Shumpert learns to open his hips up and improve his lateral agility and quickness, which would make him look more fluid and graceful with the ball in his hands, Shumpert can be a special back with 1,000-yard potential and remind some of the school’s all-time leading rusher, Antonio Dixon.
That certainly is the best-case scenario for Shumpert, but a year to backup Perkins will serve Shumpert well as he learns the rigors of college football and soaks in all the coaching that will help him work on the areas of weakness that I described above and should enter 2013 as the starting running back.
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