Thousand yard backs have come naturally in Dan Mullen’s offense since he arrived at Mississippi State in 2009.

Three different tailbacks have started for Mullen during his first five years in Starkville, and all three posted a 1,000 yard season before advancing to the NFL:

  • Anthony Dixon (2009) – 1,391 yards, 12 TDs
  • Vick Ballard (2011) – 1,189, 10 TDs (Ballard also rushed for 968 yards and 19 TDs in 2011)
  • LaDarius Perkins (2012) – 1,016 yards, 8 TDs

Perkins’ productivity dropped off dramatically in 2013 to the tune of just 542 yards and two touchdowns, but the Bulldogs will return the two players who picked up the most slack throughout the season in quarterback Dak Prescott and tailback Josh Robinson.

Robinson had a breakthrough season in 2013, rushing for 459 yards at nearly six yards per carry. He is poised to assume the Bulldogs’ starting tailback role in 2014, and could be the next in a long line of Dan Mullen 1,000 yard rushers.

Mullen seemed to think so, too, and said as much at Mississippi State Media Day, according to

“Every year it’s a committee type thing,” Mullen said. “Josh (Robinson) had a lot of yards last year. When Vick Ballard was here, (LaDarius) Perkins had a lot as well. Usually, one steps out a little ahead of everybody else.”

Robinson appeared to be the guy to “step out” during last season, much like Perkins did in Ballard’s final season. Perkins followed that season with his 1,000 yard campaign in 2012, and MSU faithful hope Robinson will do the same following Perkins’ departure in 2014.

His biggest ally in his pursuit of 1,000 yards will be Prescott, who led the team in rushing a year ago with 829 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. Prescott and Robinson will be able to play off one another as running threats, and Mullen proved over the course of last season that he is not above using his skill players in harmony with Prescott to pull off some trick plays.

Robinson could be a major beneficiary of Prescott’s versatility and Mullen’s creativity as defenses begin to prepare for more than just his abilities as a traditional tailback. The question will be whether Robinson gets enough carries as a traditional back over the course of the season to reach the 1,000-yard plateau.

Robinson will also need help from his offensive line, which is losing its anchor from last season in Conerly Trophy winner Gabe Jackson.

But despite Jackson’s departure to the NFL, the Bulldogs will return three offensive linemen including center Dillon Day and right guard Ben Beckwith. Although Robinson will be a first-time starter, he did get 78 carries last season and appeared to be in rhythm with his offensive linemen by the end of the season.

Robinson will have the opportunity to play a major role in one of the SEC’s most potent rushing offenses, and the Bulldogs’ ability to maintain possession with the run game could ultimately determine the success of their season.

Mullen has the track record of turning good tailbacks into stars. If Robinson follows through, he could be Mullen’s next superstar back.