Mississippi State running back Josh Shumpert takes over the top job _lowres

Associated Press photo by ROGELIO V. SOLIS -- Mississippi State running back Ashton Shumpert runs upfield with the football during practice Aug. 7 in Starkville, Miss.

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State must find a way to replace more than 1,200 yards rushing now that former starting running back Josh Robinson is in the NFL.

That might scare some programs.

The Bulldogs aren’t one of them.

The reason for that confidence is simple: Mississippi State has consistently had fantastic running backs during coach Dan Mullen’s seven-year tenure. From Anthony Dixon to Vick Ballard to LaDarius Perkins and finally Robinson, the Bulldogs have always been able to move the ball on the ground.

Now it’s Ashton Shumpert’s turn.

The 6-foot-2, 218-pound junior is listed as the team’s starter going into Saturday’s road game against Southern Miss. He ran for 274 yards and two touchdowns last season and 190 yards as a freshman in 2013.

Now he’s looking forward to being the next great running back at Mississippi State.

“They’ve all been good, so I have no choice but to be great,” Shumpert said. “I just put a lot on my shoulders. We’re trying to accomplish stuff this season that’s going to overshadow what we did last season.”

Junior Brandon Holloway — a smaller, quicker option at 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds — also returns after running for 294 yards and a touchdown last year. He’s listed as Shumpert’s backup but plays a distinctly different role because of his different running style.

Mullen says both are ready for the increased workload.


MALZAHN DISMISSES PRESEASON HYPE: The Auburn Tigers’ best seasons lately have come when they entered the year under the national radar.

Sorry, Auburn. The challenge this season won’t be trying to prove doubters wrong but living up to the lofty expectations of a team ranked No. 6 and one of the favorites to win the Southeastern Conference.

Recent Auburn teams haven’t fared so well as front-runners, but coach Gus Malzahn said the team’s mentality has to remain the same whatever the preseason projections say.

“We have the same approach, and I like where our guys are at,” Malzahn said. “They’re not reading the press and predicting. ... They’re worried about this first opponent, and they’ve got a good mindset.”

That first opponent is Bobby Petrino and Louisville Saturday in Atlanta.


DL BUTCHER ARRESTED: Tennessee defensive lineman Andrew Butcher was arrested Sunday on alcohol-related misdemeanor charges.

Butcher, an 18-year-old freshman from Alpharetta, Georgia, faces charges of public intoxication and underage consumption as well as a controlled access roadway violation. Knoxville police said Butcher was “running around” on Interstate 40 at about 1:45 a.m. Sunday. Police said the 18-year-old Butcher had a “very strong” odor of alcohol on his breath, was unsteady on his feet and had watery eyes and slurred speech.

Around the nation

Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said he won’t announce whether Johnny McCrary or Wade Freebeck will start at quarterback Thursday against Western Kentucky. ... Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said he’ll decide Thursday on a starting quarterback. Jake Rudock and Shane Morris were listed as co-No. 1 quarterbacks on the depth chart released Monday. The Wolverines face Utah on Saturday. ... UCLA suspended cornerback Ishmael Adams indefinitely following his arrest last weekend on suspicion of felony robbery.