Running back situation up in the air
Le’Veon Bell carried the football 382 times for the MSU football team during the 2012 season.
Breaking through tackles and leaping over defenders, Bell’s carries were the most of any running back in the country, accounting for roughly 83 percent of the Spartans’ rushing attack. In a year of overall offensive stagnation, Bell was the shining star — a notion that made Bell a standout when he was selected in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The release of MSU’s depth chart Tuesday solved a few questions for the 2013 squad, most notably at quarterback but also at the running back position, who’s tasked with finding the right replacement for Bell.
Junior Jeremy Langford and redshirt freshman Riley Bullough have been named the co-starters for Friday’s season opener against Western Michigan (8 p.m., Big Ten Network) and are expected to split carries with junior Nick Hill and potentially freshman duo Delton Williams and Gerald Holmes.
“I’m excited to show the fans what I can do,” said Langford, who had just nine carries for 23 yards last season. “My teammates have trust in me, the coaches have trust in me and that’s who I’m playing for; I’m playing for my family out there.”
Running back depth chart (as of Aug. 26):
Jeremy Langford*, junior
Riley Bullough*, redshirt freshman
Nick Hill, junior
Delton Williams, freshman
Gerald Holmes, freshman
*Denotes listed as starter
A native of Wayne, Mich., Langford played alongside former MSU wide receiver Keshawn Martin while at Westland, Mich.‘s John Glenn High School. Martin now is with the NFL’s Houston Texans. Coming in as a three-star recruit, Langford provided depth in the backfield behind Bell, Hill and then-senior Larry Caper a season ago.
Now in an opportunity to formally introduce himself as an impact player, Langford said his goals for this week remain simple.
“Just playing hard,” Langford said. “Playing hard, playing the best I can and coming out with the win.”
A similar opportunity will present itself to Bullough, who was slotted as a running back in the spring and established himself in fall camp prior to the season’s opener.
It’ll be the first game for Bullough in close to two years, as he broke his collarbone during the fifth game of his senior season at St. Francis High School in Traverse City, Mich., and later was redshirted at MSU in 2012. Originally, Bullough was recruited to play defense but was converted to running back prior to the team’s Green and White Spring Game in April.
Bullough said the biggest factor for MSU against the Broncos will be to “come out with energy and focus,” which will help power the Spartans to a victory.
“We’ve got the guys here to do big things and definitely go to the Rose Bowl,” Bullough said. “I flat out think we have the talent to do it.”
MSU’s most experienced option in the backfield would seem to be Hill, who’s accumulated 163 yards and a touchdown on 51 attempts through parts of three seasons.
Having been a part of several MSU running back battles, Hill said he welcomes the competition of the position, citing its impact on the way it helps each member of the unit approach practices and games.
“Allowing us to compete for the No. 1 spot … it can change from week to week,” Hill said. “Us competing against each other is keeping us on our toes and us going hard in practice and not slacking in practice so, when it comes to game time, we’re still going hard.”