Thursday, October 21, 2021

MSU's Jayden Reed and Kenneth Walker III are legitimate Heisman Hopefuls

October 7, 2021
<p>Spartans share a quick celebration after junior running back Kenneth Walker lll (9) makes a touchdown during the homecoming game against Western Kentucky on Oct. 2, 2021. </p>

Spartans share a quick celebration after junior running back Kenneth Walker lll (9) makes a touchdown during the homecoming game against Western Kentucky on Oct. 2, 2021.

Photo by Chandra Fleming | The State News

Michigan State sophomore quarterback Payton Thorne feels the national hype building around his two playmakers on offense, redshirt junior wide receiver Jayden Reed and junior running back Kenneth Walker III, and believes they should be in Heisman consideration after five weeks.

“If you just look at the statistics, we got a guy leading the country in rushing and then the other guy's leading the country in all-purpose yards,” Thorne said. “So just hearing that, you'd say that you know, those are the types of guys that should be in those conversations. So I definitely believe that they deserve to be in those conversations for many reasons.”

Walker and Reed have transformed Michigan State’s offense into one of the most explosive offenses in the country. Reed leads the country in all-purpose yards per game (176.6) and is the first Michigan State player with two punt returns in the same year since 1972 after doing it in back-to-back games. 

His two punt returns for touchdowns are also tied for the country’s best and averages a whopping 39.6 yards per return. As a wide receiver, Reed has caught five touchdown passes and averages 23.2 yards per catch. Reed has accounted for 883 total yards and eight touchdowns to date through five games.

Reed said he has not been paying attention to the national attention that he has been receiving so far this year and is ready to continue working.

“It's all really like kind of a blur to me,” Reed said. “I didn't really even know I was leading the nation in all-purpose yards, honestly. I'm just going with the flow, doing what the coaches are telling me to do. Things just happen when you're patient and follow the plan.”

The other piece of Michigan State’s dynamic duo is Walker, who has terrorized defenses from the backfield all year. Walker, a transfer from Wake Forest, is the nation’s current leader in rushing yards (680) and is tied for sixth in rushing touchdowns with eight.

Walker has been transcendent in his short Spartan career and restored balance in the Michigan State offense by providing a rushing attack that has been nonexistent for years. Walker has led the country in rushing yards for the entire season since his breakout performance for 264 yards and four touchdowns against Northwestern week one. 

William Peagler, Michigan State’s running backs coach, said that even he has been surprised by Walker since he arrived on campus. 

“When he first got here in the spring I was like, I think this guy's pretty good,” Peagler said. “You know but how's it going to translate the Saturdays? And as camp went on through fall camp, that was more of a situation like, I still think he's pretty damn good. And then obviously, you saw what he did against Northwestern. The kid’s been consistent the way he works every day, and he just comes out and works and does a good job.”

Walker, like Reed, has not been paying attention to the hype building around his name as he continues to steamroll through opposing defenses, but winning the Heisman has always been a goal of his.

“But that is a dream of mine to win Heisman,” Walker said Saturday following his 126 yard, three-touchdown performance against Western Kentucky. “I had that in my notes like March 8, I put it down and that's been a dream of mine.”

Despite the growing hype, Reed and Walker are still focused on the task at hand, Rutgers. They have both been adamant that they are not looking forward past an opponent and are more concerned about the left-hand side of the win/loss column rather than how many yards or touchdowns they accumulate.

“I kind of put that to the side now, I’m more focused on getting wins and getting to the Big Ten championship,” Reed said. “I don't get too involved with the hype. That's kind of how I've always been, just keep doing what I'm doing.”

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