Ever since I can remember, the Michigan State Spartans have had a reliable running back heading into the season. This upcoming season is different; the Spartans don’t have that. Instead the Spartans have a group of young and inexperienced running backs. Usually the running back position is widely considered to be a position of strength dating back to Duckett, Caulcirck, Ringer, Baker, and Bell, but heading into the 2013 season the running back position is considered a position of weakness and concern, to me anyway. Le’Veon Bell could have decided to come back for his senior season and the concern would have been thwarted, but he decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 2013 NFL Draft and that decision was the smart decision. Bell was drafted with the 48th overall pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers. The argument could be raised that if he came back for his senior year he could raised his draft stock and been taken in the first round. While that statement is true, Bell could also have gotten seriously injured if he came back, you just don’t know.
Heading into summer camp, the Spartans have a long list of running backs that will compete for playing time. The most experienced of the group is Junior Nick Hill who has spent most of his time returning kicks. The 5’8″ running back out of Chelsea, Michigan will enter fall camp as the presumed favorite to replace Bell as the starting running back, but I question his size and ball security. At his size, I don’t think he’ll be able to stand in for pass protection and hold off the 300 pound defensive tackles. As for ball security, he has fumbled the ball many times as a kick returner. Will he be able to hold onto the ball with 2 or 3 guys trying to rip the ball out of his arms? I’m not so sure.
Jeremy Langford is a Junior running back out of Wayne, Michigan. Unlike Hill, Langford does not have game experience. Langford only appeared in 1 game last season at running back, played in other games on special teams, tallying 23 yards in mop up duty against Central Michigan.
Nick Thompkins is a redshirt Freshman out of Snellville, Georgia who spent all last season on the bench and practice squad. In the Spring game this past April, Thompkins impressed me rushing for 43 yards on 4 carries and busted a 30 yard run down the sideline.
Riley Bullough, the brother of staring middle linebacker Max Bullough, saw a lot of time at running back during the spring game. He doesn’t posses the break away speed you would like in a starting running back, but he does posses the toughness. I don’t think he’ll be competing at running back, he may see some time at fullback in short yardage situations.
Gerald Holmes and RJ Shelton are both incoming freshman. Holmes is out of Flint, Michigan while Shelton hails from Wisconsin. These two freshman will get their chance to impress during summer camp and may get a shot at playing time their freshman year.
When its all said and done, this is what I think the depth chart at running back will look like heading into the first game.
Nick Hill OR Gerald Holmes
Hill- 600 yards, 4 TDs
Holmes- 800 yards 7 TDs
Thompkins- 200 yards 1 TD
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