Jeremy Langford has not only earned a spot atop the Michigan State depth chart at running back, but also a spot amongst the best running backs in the B1G. Langford will be the workhorse for the Spartans in 2014, but several other backs will see time.
Langford rushed 292 times for 1,422 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2013, and quickly became the top playmaker on the Spartan offense. His elite speed brought a dimension to the Michigan State offense that had been lacking in past years. He was able to turn 15-20 yard runs into 30-40 yard touchdowns with his breakaway speed, which brought the offense to a new level.
This ability was especially useful at the end of games when Michigan State was trying to run out the clock and ice the game. Langford was an expert at breaking long touchdown runs to put games out of reach including touchdowns against Michigan and Ohio State in the final minutes.
As important as Langford is to the Michigan State offense, 292 carries is a lot for a running back, especially in the bruising B1G. The MSU coaching staff will most likely want to give him less carries in 2014 to keep him healthy and fresh. There are a few backs that will compete to backup Langford, most of which are young players who haven’t had much of an opportunity to showcase their talents.
Delton Williams is one of the young backs who will get carries this season. Williams played last year as a true freshman instead of redshirting and was impressive enough to take the backup job from upperclassman Nick Hill. Williams is a power back who excels between the tackles, which makes him a perfect complement to Langford who is more of a finesse runner. There has been talk of Williams moving to defense, but head coach Mark Dantonio has said he plans to keep Williams at tailback for the time being.
As a redshirt senior, Nick Hill is the veteran of the backup running backs. Hill has rushed 118 times for 507 yards and two touchdowns in his career at Michigan State. He has never shown the ability to be an every-down back, but he has some playmaking ability. For this reason, he has made most of his impact as a kick and punt returner. In his senior year he should see his fair share of carries, but his small stature (5-foot-8, 198 pounds) and similar running style to Jeremy Langford will probably prevent him from being the primary backup.
Two young running backs that could make some noise are Gerald Holmes and Nick Tompkins. Holmes redshirted in 2013 after he failed to keep up in the competition for the starting job. He is a big back at 6-foot, 216 pounds who isn’t afraid of contact, and he wears number 24 so he might give some Spartan fans Le’veon Bell flashbacks.
Nick Tompkins was a top recruit coming out of high school in 2012 and he redshirted his freshman year at MSU. He only saw the field against Youngstown State in 2013, but he did lead the White Team with 43 rushing yards in the Spring Game. He is another smaller back, and 2014 could be his opportunity to break out and get some consistent carries.
Michigan State definitely has the luxury of depth at the running back position. Langford has proven to be one of the top running backs in the conference, and there are plenty of quality backs who will be fighting for the backup spot.
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