Since the hiring of Mark Dantonio at Michigan State in 2007, fans of the Spartan football team have been fortunate to see some great football from the running back position.
Dantonio is an old-school coach who puts a heavy emphasis on running the football, and it has showed going into his ninth season with the Spartans.
In the eight seasons he’s been coach, only twice have the Spartans not had a rusher go over the 1,000-yard mark.
Heading into the 2015 season, Dantonio will once again have to replace a workhorse and find a new guy. Langford is off to the NFL, and projected starter Delton Williams is suspended, and his career is in limbo.
“They’re both very, very good players,” Dantonio said. “Explosive athletes. They run very effectively. They’re big-bodied guys, they could really be outside linebacker-type guys. They run and contact people like that, which is what you have to have I think at your runningback.”
Holmes and London are similar in many ways. Both stand around 6’1 and are around the 225-pound range. According to Dantonio, they’re both slashing and physical when they run.
But when it comes to ways they are similar, there is one thing that they both have in common – inexperience. Dantonio says that’s the biggest thing for them moving forward.
“I think it’s more vision and experience and giving them an opportunity to run the football,” Dantonio said. “We’ve got to give them touches in the spring, in scrimmages and in day-to-day planning. We’ve got to give them a certain amount of touches so they’re able to capitalize on that.”
Last season, Holmes only carried the ball 15 times for 44 yards in cleanup duty. London, who made some impressions in fall camp, was redshirted, as the carries were limited with two seniors in the backfield.
With an offensive line as experienced as the Spartans’, the transition from scout team to the first team will be a lot smoother than it is for most kids around the country. But, both still have much they would like to improve on.
“Just pass blocking, and just being more patient,” Holmes said. “I’m running behind a more mature offensive line now, so just trusting my blocks and being more patient and reading, and just going full-speed.”
Interestingly enough, when asked the same question, London gave the same answer.
“Biggest thing I’ve had to do is work on pass blocking,” London said. “Knowing the schemes of things, who the linemen are going to pick up, who I’ve got to pick up, process of elimination. It’s just my pass blocking. I have to stay low and do what I have to do.”
With the addition of highly touted running back L.J. Scott arriving in the fall, the competition will figure to turn into a three-way battle. The upcoming season may look a lot like the 2009, when Baker and Larry Caper were both true freshman and split carries.
But for now, Holmes and London are the main competitors for the job, and both are working to help each other become better players every day.
“It’s a big competition, but at the same time we help each other learn,” Holmes said. “Some things that he knows, some things I don’t know. We talk every day after practice, during practice, just to keep pushing each other.”