Last season the Michigan State Running Backs did not have the season the expected. Top RB L.J. Scott was limited to just five games due to injury and that left the bulk of the load to Connor Heyward and La’Darius Jefferson. Heyward finished the season as the Spartans leading rusher, averaging 4.5 yards per carry, on his way to 529 yards rushing. The offense struggled at times last year to move the ball and some of that can be attributed to a run game that lack explosiveness. That could change this season with Heyward returning and Jefferson also has a year under his belt. If the offensive line can stay a little bit healthier we could be looking at a run game we’ve come to expect from the Spartans.
Connor Heyward a Junior, will be a focal point in this backfield. After filling in for the injured L.J. Scott, Heyward proved to be a very versatile and productive player. In addition to his rushing efforts Heyward compiled 249 yards receiving and 287 return yards to finish the season over 1,000 all-purpose yards. Thanks to these efforts Connor Heyward was named to the Paul Hornung Award Watch List this preseason. The Award is given out each season to the nations most versatile player which certainly fits Heyward’s description.
La’Darius Jefferson will be the number two back this season on the heels of a productive Freshman season in which he saw more time than predicted. Former Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Michigan and dual-threat QB in high school, Jefferson ran for 266 yards which was good for third best on the Spartans last year. Jefferson will be the lightning to Heyward’s thunder and provide a nice change of pace. Jefferson will also give the Spartans the option of a solid thrower if a trick play is needed.
The third back that will see some time this season is True Freshman Anthony Williams Jr. out of the state of Illinois. Williams Jr. was ranked the top all-purpose back in Illinois and the #49 best RB in the nation last recruiting cycle. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Williams Jr. get some early playing time in the return game as he learns the college game. His skill set sets up to be Le’Veon Bell like and be a three down back.