The Michigan State Spartans were forced to find a replacement for the incredible talents of Le’Veon Bell in the running game after their leading rusher bolted for the NFL following his junior year. With no clear-cut successor on the roster, head coach Mike Dantonio decided to get creative this spring and try out linebacker Riley Bullough on offense. The redshirt freshman excelled when given the opportunity, but the coaching staff is still mulling over how best to use Bullough’s talents as they consider moving him back to defense in fall camp. One way or the other, however, Bullough needs to have a role in the Spartan offense in 2013.
While he likely won’t be the primary back, thanks at least in part to his lack of experience, he has the skill-set and build to fit perfectly into Dantonio’s running scheme. The MSU head coach tends to favor big-bodied backs who can push the pile and earn tough yards between the tackles. At 232 pounds, Bullough has the bulk to fill that role perfectly, even if it’s just near the goal line or in short yardage situations.
That’s something that none of the other backs on the Spartans’ roster can say. Projected No. 1 running back Nick Hill comes into 2013 at just 193 pounds and no running back currently on the roster or scheduled to join the team next fall weighs in at more than 206 pounds. While they may have better top-end speed and playmaking ability than Bullough, none of them can match his bruising ability to punish defenders trying to bring him down.
Whether or not he sticks on offense will depend largely on how the incoming running back recruits pick up the offense next August. Even if they find some quality players who can be a change of pace back to Hill, the Spartans should keep Bullough handy for when they need those tough yards and give him a clear role for the offense next fall, even if it means playing him both ways.