EAST LANSING — For Michigan State junior running back Jeremy Langford, the journey hasn’t been easy.
The 6-foot-0, 206-pound Langford came to Michigan State in 2010 after being ranked among the nation’s top 100 running backs (Scout.com) coming out of John Glenn High School in Westland, Mich. He redshirted his first year at MSU, and then as a redshirt freshman in 2011, Langford made the switch from running back to cornerback during preseason camp and played primarily on special teams. His sophomore season was more of the same.
However, coming into the 2013-2014 season, which had uncertainties at many offensive positions for MSU — including running back — Langford had the opportunity to not only make an impact at his natural position, but become the starter due to former Spartan do-it-all tailback Le’Veon Bell leaving school early for the NFL.
Coming out of spring ball, it was redshirt freshman linebacker turned running back Riley Bullough who impressed coaches, and was the early frontrunner at the starting tailback position. But an injury during the summer sidelined Bullough and opened the doors for Langford.
Langford, who started the year at running back, took advantage of his opportunity, and ran for 94 of the Spartans’ 181 rushing yards in the season-opening victory over Western Michigan.
Now, fast forward three months later, and Langford is arguably the star of the Spartans’ offense.
His story, and production, is something that Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio appreciates and recognizes as a huge reason to why his team is only two games away from a trip to the Rose Bowl.
“We were the only people in the Big Ten to offer him,” Dantonio said. “He got a late offer from Colorado, and had a lot of offers from the Mid-American Conference.
“Just having that journeyman approach. I was watching special teams from this past year, and against Minnesota, and Jeremy Langford makes two huge plays on special teams. He’s always been a good football player for us, but how he’s come on and become a very dynamic football player for us.”
Langford has rushed for 100-plus yards in Michigan State’s last six games, and his 150-yard performance in last Saturday’s victory over Northwestern put him over 1, 000 yards on the season (1, 076). His 15 rushing touchdowns are the most for a running back in the Big Ten.
Langford’s ability to rush for over 1, 000 yards — still has three games remaining on the season — is something that didn’t seem likely for any individual rusher in August because Dantonio and staff were considering using a multiple-back system. But as the season progressed, and Langford began to take advantage of his opportunities, there was no question who was the man in the backfield.
“You really don’t think about that stuff in August,” Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook said. “You just try and find a guy that can really help your team out, and heading into the season, coming out of spring ball, we though Riley was going to be that guy. Then J-Lang (Langford) just slowly worked his way to the front, and I don’t think he’s looked back ever since.
“Early on in the season I don’t think a quarterback threw a touchdown in the first two games and Jeremy was the only one scoring those touchdowns. Ever since the season rolled around, since week one, he’s been real consistent. He’s has a great work ethic, always working super hard, never takes himself out of any of the drills, always the first one up, the first one in line. He’s a confident, cool kid who’s just laid back and loves to work. I mean, you’re kind of surprised and then you aren’t because you’re around him every day and see the work ethic he has.”