EAST LANSING - As good as the Spartans are at quarterback, they might be even better at running back. The Spartans boast three top flight running backs and have the most talent and depth of any team in the Big Ten at the position.
The Spartans return a superstar in the making in sophomore tailback Javon Ringer. The 5-foot-9, 195 pound speedster ripped up the Big Ten in his freshman season for 817 yards on just 122 carries, an amazing 6.7 per carry average while splitting time with the graduated Jason Teague at the starting running back position.
Ringer should do even more damage at the position now that he's cemented himself as the #1 back. The only thing to keep Ringer from vaulting himself into Big Ten Player of the Year contention is the fact that head coach John L. Smith likes to split carries among his backs. He burst on to the scene with a stunning 194 yard performance against Illinois on just 13 carries. He turned in two more 100 performances (Northwestern, Indiana) his freshman season despite never getting more than 18 carries in any ballgame.
Sports Illustrated ranks Ringer as #97 on its list of the top-100
Backing up Ringer is junior returnee Jehuu Caulcrick. Caulcrick could start for most Big Ten teams with his combination of speed (4.5-40), size (6-foot, 245-pounds) and agility. Still, he will get plenty of carries for the Spartans especially in short yardage and goal line situations. Caulcrick scored seven touchdowns for the Spartans in 2005. MSU appears to be trying to mold Caulcrick into a Jerome Bettis type back who can pound into the line of scrimmage when State needs a critical first down in the late stages of the ballgame.
The Clymer, NY standout rushed for 478 yards on 89 attempts last year to go with 619 yards on 113 carries in 2004.
Caulcrick is a solid blocker, good straight line runner with sneaky
speed who works well in Coach Smith's spread offense.
The X factor in the Spartans backfield this season is red-shirt freshman A.J. Jimmerson of Florissant, MO. Jimmerson suffered through an injury plagued senior season at Hazelwood Central hampered by a broken thumb and a sprained ankle, but none of that bothered Michigan State. The Spartans saw Jimmerson's breakaway speed (4.3-40) and his toughness in playing through injury and knew they had a future star.
Jimmerson amassed over 5,000 total yards during his high school career including 625 yards rushing his senior season. MSU decided to redshirt the super talent to get a year of separation between he and Ringer.
There is talk that MSU might even put Ringer and Jimmerson together in
the backfield to really spook opponents. Jimmerson performance in
spring practice had his teammates raving and MSU coach salvating over the
Overall MSU is in a great position, sporting three players, all of who
are capable of being a bellcow type of back, all who are fast and
talented and who have star quality.
Position group rating: 80