Mississippi State football: Mike Leach has beautiful plans for Kylin Hill
Mississippi State running back coach Eric Mele sounded confident last week that Bulldogs running back Kylin Hill had totally bought into playing in an Air Raid offense.
He wasn’t lying.
Hill was part of an offensive onslaught, led by quarterback KJ Costello, as the Bulldogs upset reigning national champion LSU in Tiger Stadium on Saturday. Hill, the senior running back, caught 8 passes for 158 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown that showcased his speed and agility as Mike Leach’s team pulled off the 44-34 victory.
It was just another game for a running back in Leach’s system. When he led Washington State to an 11-2 record in 2018, quarterback Gardner Minshew found his two top running backs, James Williams and Max Borghi, for a combined 136 catches. And when a team has a top back such as Hill, who has experience catching the ball out of the backfield — in 2018, he caught 22 passes for 176 yards and 4 touchdowns — that offense will use him quite a bit.
There’s no secret to Leach’s offense, even if he is new to the SEC as a head coach. They are going to throw the ball and the running game is an afterthought. Hill was given just seven carries for 34 yards against LSU but proved that, much like last year with LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire (who now plays for the Kansas City Chiefs), he is more than a runner. That is what got Hill excited about Leach’s offense in the first place.
“You show them some numbers or the last several years, the touches, the yards, the touchdowns, all those things,” Mele told SDS. “Then just staying in conference, you watch a guy like Edwards-Helaire, comes out from LSU and he’s a high draft pick because he catches the ball. Everybody’s excited he caught 50 balls. I’m like, our second running back catches 50 balls, that type of thing.”
It was more than an impressive display from both Hill and Mississippi State. When the Tigers fought back in the fourth quarter and tied the score at 34, it would have been easy for a new coach with a new team and a new quarterback to fold. But Costello just kept making plays. When he hit Osirus Mitchell for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 3:39 left to give the Bulldogs a 10-point lead, it was all but over.
Sure, Costello will get the headlines and deservedly so. He broke an SEC record for passing yards in a game with 623 and also threw five touchdowns. But Hill was a major part of it. The back has quickly adjusted to his role in the Air Raid offense and he shined on Saturday. For all of the trouble that he caused as a running back in a normal offense, Hill has now shown that his impact with Leach calling the plays is even more prevalent.
That sound you hear is every SEC defensive coordinator sighing.