Michigan State Position Preview: Youth the Theme at Running Back

By Erik Sargent
Nick Hill Michigan State Spartans
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

If there is one thing that is synonymous with Michigan State Spartan football, it is running the ball. Throughout the course of the Spartan football program’s history, it has constantly put out great running backs and led the conference in rushing.

You can go through almost any season of Michigan State football and see that when State is out-rushing their opponent, they are winning ball games.

Despite having one of the top running backs in college football last season in Le’Veon Bell, the Spartans only finished eighth in the Big Ten in rushing, which can be directly correlated to their poor 7-6 record.

This season, head coach Mark Dantonio and the offense will look to get back to their ways of dominating at the line of scrimmage and controlling the tempo of the game with a solid rushing attack. They will look to rotate a mix of backs in hopes to achieve this level of play.

The bad news for the Spartans is that they only have two running backs on the roster who have registered carries in college. The good news is that they have a talented group of young ball carriers looking to make a name for themselves.

Nick Hill and Jeremy Langford are the two backs who have registered carries in their careers, but Hill hasn’t shown he is capable of being a Big Ten running back during his time in college. Langford has played sparingly as well and has good size and vision, but he hasn’t separated himself from anyone else thus far in camp.

The Spartans got creative in spring practices looking to find new options to carry the ball, and they did so by moving redshirt freshman Riley Bullough from linebacker to running back. Bullough led the team in rushing during the spring game, and although he is a raw runner, he showed toughness and the ability to pass protect. He entered fall camp as the number one back, and has kept that title thus far.

The Spartans have two freshmen in contention for carries right now with Gerald Holmes and Delton Williams. Both running backs are big, powerful backs you typically would see in a Michigan State offense and have impressed coaches in their short time in college. It is very possible that one of these backs could get a solid amount of carries come fall.

With two weeks left of camp and such a young group of backs, the coaches probably won’t know who the go-to-guy is until game situations are there and they can see all the players in live action. In order for the Spartans to have another shot at a Big Ten Championship, they must be able to rely on their running game and someone needs to step up.

Erik Sargent is a college football writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Erik_Sargent, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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