With back-to-back top five rankings, Michigan State enters 2015 as a team to watch. However, there could be a few potholes in the Spartans path as they look to win a Big Ten title and earn a spot in the college football playoffs.
Since Mark Dantonio took over the Spartans, he’s turned the Spartans into a power running team. However, our look at the programs running backs will have many asking if the Spartans can continue to be a Pound Green Pound team.
TOP THREE RUSHERS LAST SEASON
A lot of offense was loss when Jeremy Langford and Nick Hill both departed after using all of their eligibility. Losing 2,144 yards of rushing and 31 touchdowns from the pair could be too much to recover from. Spartan fans saw promise from Delton Williams as he stepped forward with 316 yards and five scores on only 54 carries last season and looked to be the next top back to come out of the program.
However, a mid March incident where Williams was jailed after being charged brandishing a firearm, has Williams suspended from all team-related activities with a pretrial hearing set in a couple of days.
If Williams returns to the program and can find his way out of the dog house, he should be looked at as the favorite to carry the majority of the Spartans rushing load as he’s got the experience, size and speed that can be a difference maker.
WHO TO WATCH AND WHY
Madre London – Redshirt Freshman
The former Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas standout looks to have made an impression early as he received 15 carries for 47 yards in the Spartans first jersey scrimmage of the spring. Physically, London has the size the program has enjoyed at 6-foot-1, 220-pounds to be an every down back. However, the lack of experience is a major concern.
Gerald Holmes – Sophomore
The Flint (MI) Carman-Ainsworth said from the time he pledged to the Spartans he’d be a player to contend for a starting spot early in his career. Like London, Holmes has good size at 6-foot, 218-pounds and showed well in the scrimmage action with 14 carries for 39 yards and one score. While Holmes has seen some game action, it was against Jacksonville State (8 carries, 28 yards) and Eastern Michigan (7 carries, 16 yards) not Ohio State or even another Big Ten opponent.
T.J. Harrell – Redshirt Freshman
Listed as a safety coming out of high school, Harrell has continued to grow as he’s now a solid 6-foot-1, 210-pounds. A great athlete out of Tampa (Fla.) Catholic, Harrell could be the surprise out of the group filling a role if Williams does not return to the program.
Gerald Owens – Redshirt Freshman
The word “Big Back” perfectly describes Owens who is listed at 6-foot-2, 260-pounds. Coming out of New Jersey, recruiting services listed Owens as a fullback at the college level. However, Owens is listed as a tailback on the most recent depth chart and could be looked upon in short yardage or goal line situations.
THE GOOD AND THE BAD
In closing our look at the Spartans running backs there are several good things going forward but also a few bad when looking at the 2015 season.
The good is the Spartans have done a solid job recruiting players to line up and carry the ball. The bad, Delton Williams is the only one with any major playing experience and right now he can’t be counted on as an option in 2015.
The other good part is the fact both London and Holmes are getting major reps this spring with Williams out of the program. This only benefits the overall depth of the running back position going forward especially if Williams is cleared to return for the season.
The other bad is the fact carrying the ball in spring is not the same as it is on the big stage when your opponent is Ohio State or another top opponent.
Good things are in store for Michigan State in the running game with the depth in the program. When it steps forward will be a question asked all summer long. Add incoming freshman L.J. Scott to this list and the Spartans have a stocked rotation of possible backs to choose from going forward. As a whole this position is loaded for greatness but lacks the experience one would want to see out of a team looking to win a college football championship when the programs identity is that of a power running attack.
STRENGTH OR WEAKNESS?
Right now because of the lack of experience this is a major weakness for the Spartans. Spartan Digest loves the talent assembled and expects big things out of the position with the talent currently on the roster and heading to East Lansing. However, with Williams future up in the air this will be one of the biggest questions if not the biggest question going into the 2015 season.