Ballard carries the ball high and tight and is very conscious of oncoming traffic to be a dependable inside runner. His value early on is that he is a big body who is willing to block oncoming linebackers in pass protection, and is also a good check-down option in the pass game who understands how to work up field and pick up first downs after catching the ball. Ballard is also a willing special teamer who likes to fly around and seeks contact.
He saw action as a true freshman back-up in 2008, rushing for 555 yards and 12 scores, but emerged in 2009 as a sophomore with 1,728 rush yards and 22 touchdowns, earning First Team Junior College All-American honors. He was considered a three-star JUCO recruit and enrolled at Mississippi State over Troy.
Ballard quickly earned the starting running back position in 2010 as a junior (10 starts), recording a team-best 968 yards on 186 carries (5.2) and a school-record 19 scores, adding 10 catches for 106 yards (10.6) and 1 touchdown.
He returned in 2011 and again led the team in rushing as a 13-game starter, finishing with 1,189 yards on 193 carries (6.2) and 10 touchdowns, adding 20 grabs for 187 yards (9.4) and 1 receiving score.
Ballard was productive in his two seasons at the SEC-level with 2,157 total yards and 31 touchdowns, but never earned conference honors by the media or coaches.
He has a similar build as former Bulldog and current 49ers reserve running back Anthony Dixon, but Ballard doesn't have the same type of quickness, toughness or balance ~ shows flashes, but too inconsistent.
Ballard needs to know and accept his identity as a power back, wasting too much time behind the line of scrimmage ~ needs to be content with positive gains and not just the home run play.
He has good patience as a runner, but almost to the point where he looks indecisive and unsure ~ a mid-to-late round prospect with potential to be a third-down back if he improves in pass protection.
Strengths: Well-built with a thick frame and powerful lower body to keep his legs pumping through contact. Patient behind the line of scrimmage, allowing blocks to create openings, and looks for the cutback lanes with accurate vision.
Hits the hole hard and runs with power, churning out extra yardage ~ gets the tough yards and runs with a physical attitude. A downhill runner who picks up momentum as he goes and does a nice job absorbing contact between the tackles ~ physical with good pad level.
Possesses soft hands out of the backfield and is regarded as a very good practice player with top work ethic. Earned the starting job quickly last year and was voted a senior captain in 2011, finishing as one of only four SEC running backs to surpass 1,000 rush yards on the season.
Weaknesses: A one-speed, straight-linish runner without much wiggle or shiftiness ~ won't make defenders miss in small areas and lacks the long speed to out-run anyone. Loses momentum when he gears down to change directions and it takes him a few steps to accelerate back to full speed.
Appears indecisive at times and will dance too much at the line of scrimmage. Lacks the dynamic qualities to create on his own. Needs to stay balanced through contact, going down too easily for a running back with his size.
Doesn't break as many tackles as his measureables would suggest. Saw his carries decline late in games due to ineffectiveness ~ wore down and didn't reach 200 carries in either of his two seasons in the SEC. Struggles in pass protection and also carries some ball security concerns.
NFL Comparison: Chauncey Washington, Dallas Cowboys."
-- Dane Brugler
Displays a good feel between the tackles, is patient when asked to read inside, sets up blocks well and hits the first hole he sees. Gets upright at times pressing space and/or when trying to make a man miss, but knows how to make himself small and does a better job lowering his pad level into contact, absorbing blows and maintaining his balance through contact. Runs hard and breaks a lot of tackles, consistently creating yards through contact inside.
Looks a little tight in the hips, isn’t a fluid change of direction guy who can routinely make a defender miss. However, he possesses the footwork/balance as a one-cut guy to feel his way on the zone plays toward the perimeter, stick his foot in the ground without wasting much motion and attacking up field.
Doesn’t have a great burst and is at best an average straight-line athlete who isn’t going to outpace many angles in space. Doesn’t display the fluidity to make a man miss once he gets back up to full speed, displays some foot quickness in order to get a defender off balance, but does his damage breaking tackles inside and at the second level.
Not real natural in the pass game at this stage, doesn’t seem comfortable trying to separate vs. man, isn’t sharp/sudden out of breaks and isn’t going to be asked to do much more than work the screen/flair game. Isn’t asked to help out in blitz pick-up much. He’s a strong kid with natural coordination and has the skill set to hold up as a blocker; he just doesn’t have much experience.
Impression: Possesses some natural running skills and is a strong kid who always falls forward. However, isn’t going to break nearly as many tackles in NFL as he did in college and will struggle averaging over 4.0 yards per carry. Fringe roster guy."
Weaknesses: Ballard lacks the elusiveness to be an everydown back in the NFL. He also doesn’t possess the receiving skills to be considered a threat out of the backfield at the next level. He has split carries throughout his career.
Bottom Line: The former JUCO standout could be a nice short yardage and goal line back in the NFL and could spell a No. 1 back for carries. His thick lower body are perfect as a redzone threat in the backfield and he will fool you with his speed.
Draft Projection: Ballard should be taken between the 4th-5th round."
Controlled mover and effective inside gainer who runs square to the line, lets holes develop, cuts subtly and has good lateral agility and short-area quickness.
Shows some tightness in his hips, is not a home run hitter and needs work as a receiver — unpolished route runner and does not catch naturally — but is a face-up blocker with a running style that should translate well and enable him to become a solid No. 2/complementary back in a man-blocking scheme."
Effective in short-yardage situations; has good vision, makes quick cuts and keeps pads low in the hole; doesn’t go down easily but isn’t going to make people miss in space;
Also lacks breakaway speed and isn’t much of a receiver."
Quick feet through the hole, shuffles his feet well... Wraps up the ball well when initiating contact... Does a good job of changing speeds when he's running... Good burst through the hole, gets his first ten yards quickly...
Should be a better NFL runner than he was in college, is more of a between the tackles type back who was asked to run outside a lot in college due to Mississippi State running an option-style offense...
Finishes his runs well, explodes into defenders and attacks for the first down... Keeps his legs moving on contact... Good vision, finds the hole well and should be a solid contributor near the goal line...
Does a good job of catching with his hands and should be able to contribute on passing downs... Great production competing in the toughest conference in college football, ran for over 2,000 yards and 29 touchdowns combined over the past two years.
Negatives -- Dances too much before heading up the field, will get caught behind the line of scrimmage... Needs to be more decisive, seems to hesitate before hitting the hole...
Struggles in the open field and is more of a straight line runner; he will often try to leap over defenders or he'll initiate contact, which works at the collegiate level but likely won't in the NFL... Poor in pass protection, will lunge at defenders and doesn't always attack his assignments...
A bit of a late bloomer, signed with Jackson State before ending up at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College for two years and then played his final two years at Mississippi State... Number of rushing touchdowns were almost cut in half from his junior to senior year (19 to 10)."