Thursday, May 23, 2024

Sophomore sensation gives football fans hope

Then-freshman running back Javon Ringer, right, avoids a tackle from Indiana's Eric McClurg and runs for a 45-yard touchdown in the third quarter of the game on Oct. 29. The Spartans won, 46-15.

The spring sun is shining over East Lansing, a damp scent is in the air and the vacancy of the MSU football training facilities has been replaced once again by the sound of pads colliding with pads.

The cut-and-dry personalities of MSU's winter sports coaches Tom Izzo and Rick Comley have been replaced by the entertaining, wacky psyche of John L. Smith.

And while the college careers of Gordon Niebylski, Chris Morris and Kyle Brown have ended, the tenure of sophomore running back Javon Ringer has only just begun.

And the hopes couldn't be any greater for Ringer going into his sophomore season.

In the disappointing 2005 season, Ringer gave Spartans football fans a sense of hope for the future, while leading the team in rushing with 817 yards.

He emerged as the go-to guy in the backfield as the season wore on and almost doubled the output in yards of Jason Teague and junior Jehuu Caulcrick.

But Ringer, who was still recovering from knee surgery which occurred during his senior year of high school, wasn't even 100 percent last season.

"Last year I played it at probably 90-91 percent," Ringer said of his knee. "Now that I've been able to tear through a lot more scar tissue, I'm getting a little more flexibility in my leg. I'm just expecting a lot out of myself."

Ringer wasn't 100 percent? His breakaway speed, ability to make defenders miss, and sharp cuts made him an X-factor — game in and game out — for the Spartans.

If Ringer was only at 90 percent last year, his production this season should be a sight to see come fall.

But don't only be encouraged by the fact that Ringer's knee wasn't 100 percent and that he has a year of Big Ten ball under his belt.

Maybe more encouraging is that after a freshman season where he averaged 6.7 yards per carry and 74.3 yards per game, Ringer wasn't satisfied with his individual performance.

"I personally just felt like I should have been able to do better," he said. "I kind of felt like I was playing real robotically, seeing how we still had that three back rotation. I didn't want to do anything too outrageous to where they could say 'Uh OK, see freshman mistake, now you're out.'"

With the 2006 season only a summer away, Ringer will be relied upon to establish a running game to complement the already dangerous passing game that the MSU offense is capable of.

"He's gotten stronger, I think he has a lot more confidence in his knee," Smith said. "I think he's got a lot of confidence in himself. I think he's going to be special before he's done. He's still a pup."

Caulcrick and redshirt freshman A.J. Jimmerson will round out another trio of backs, who Ringer calls "three of the best in the Big Ten."

But when the Dayton, Ohio native isn't on the football field, don't expect him to be bragging about how good he is.

"A lot of people don't know that it's me just because I'm not always talking about football," Ringer said. "Nobody really comes to me, 'Hey aren't you Javon?' I'm just kind of low-key, low profile.'"

Obviously this football season's success will revolve around defensive play and whether or not they can stop somebody this year.

Senior quarterback Drew Stanton will enter his final year of play as a proven star. Aside from the preseason Heisman Trophy hype, Stanton has been staying sports-savvy working with MSU Sports Information in event press boxes, where he allegedly broke character and began cheering after a goal at an MSU hockey game last month.

With a promising young star like Ringer in his backfield, Stanton might have a lot more to cheer about during the 2006 football season.

"Whatever it takes to win, that's what I'll do," Ringer said.

Eric Fish is a State News sports reporter. Reach him at


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