Moving Forward: Running Backs

As we finish out our look at the 2012 season we'll be looking at each aspect of the Michigan State football program from coaches, players and more to see what the future might hold. Our first stop is with the running backs.

The Michigan State running attack may be considered the strength of the program. However, after further review the future might be a little cloudy.

Running Backs Coach: Brad Salem (3 seasons)

Salem has enjoyed the benefits of having one of the country's top backs in Le'Veon Bell this past season and has done a good job of keeping Bell working hard and not looking at his press clippings. However, the future of Bell could decide how much more work Salem will have to do in 2013.

Leaving The Program

Larry Caper – After a strong start to his career as a freshman, Caper fought injury and the emergence of Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell that pushed him more into a back-up role or third-down back with his ability to catch the ball. Over all Caper will look to add to some small career numbers having finished the 2012 season with the following career stats of 836 rushing yards and nine touchdowns to go with 31 receptions for 318 yards and three scores. That is a long way off his freshman season where he scored six touchdowns on 468 yards rushing.

Biggest Question

The status of junior running back Le'Veon Bell is the biggest question Spartan fans will be asking in the weeks ahead. If Bell stays he's still without a solid back-up capable of carrying his workload or provides the production he's shown the past two seasons. If he stays he'll give Michigan State one of the top rushing attacks in the Big Ten as Bell's coming off a 1,648 yard 11 touchdown season. This will be Mark Dantonio's biggest recruiting job in the coming months.

Moving Forward

If Bell leaves the program where will the Spartans turn for their rushing attack in 2013? Nick Hill fills more of a back-up or third-down role much like Caper has done the past few seasons and Jeremy Landford only received nine carries this season for 23 yards.

So that leaves questions as Nick Tompkins redshirted his first season in the program and current pledges Gerald Holmes and R.J. Shelton are coming in from high school to the college level. Holmes might be the more ready of the two as he's got the physical size needed to compete early. But the goal should be to keep Bell in the program for his senior season. Another option could be for the Spartans to use Delton Williams on offense instead of defense giving them a true power back at 6-foot-2, 200-pounds. Tompkins will have a great chance to show his ability in the spring and could ease some of our worries but not all of them if Bell takes off for the NFL.

Spartan Digest Take

This is the biggest worry when looking forward at the Spartans depth chart for 2013. The offense should be much better next season as all the skill players return with more experience. However, no Bell behind Andrew Maxwell and even the most diehard fans will have major concerns going into camp. If you thought the Spartans offense struggled this past season after the loss of Kirk Cousins and company, how much would it suffer without Bell?


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