Despite the losses of Gerald Holmes (graduation) and Madre London (transfer to Tennessee), the running back position remains a strength for #5 Michigan Statewith the 2018 season quickly approaching.
With the news that L.J. Scottwould be returning for his senior season instead of entering last spring’s draft and the emergence of Conor Heyward, the Spartans’ rushing attack, barring injury, likely won’t miss a step this fall. Spartan Nation also learned that a third running back has started to emerge early in camp. We will wait for Mark Dantonio to address that publicly tomorrow.
Dantonio said about Scott’s return and told reporters that while he started to suspect that his star running back would be returning, even he was surprised by the timing of his announcement and added that he has high expectations for Scott in his senior season.
“Sort of towards the end of the season that I thought that was the direction he was going, but I was surprised he made the decision right after the bowl game,” he said. “I thought it was a big positive and again, I think it’s a statement in terms of what’s going on in our program that he wants to be a part of that program and he wants to continue his career and continue his education as he gets closer to a degree, which I think is huge because he’s done well in school. Obviously, he’s like a great recruit, you have a guy back that has that kind of performance and ability - just like when Connor Cook and Shilique (Calhoun) came back, we won a championship that year, so that’s a big item on your checklist.”
As a junior, Scott rushed for 898 yards, leading the Spartans in rushing for a third consecutive season. In his career, Scott has rushed for over 2,500 yards, which ranks as 12th most in program history.
After sharing time at the running back position over the past three seasons, Scott will now be the Spartans’ featured back and Dantonio believes that could lead to a big season this fall for the 6-foot-1, 226-pound running back.
“I think he’s a guy that made a statement as a freshman, he’s made a statement every year he’s been here now,” he said. “He hasn’t had that 1,500-yard rushing year - maybe it’ll be this year - but he’s gotten some tough yards and he’s made some big plays in some games for us.”
With Holmes and London now gone, it paves the way for Heyward to play a sizable role in the Spartan offense playing behind Scott. Heyward will likely bring a different dimension to the offense as Heyward is a pass-catching threat, who can do a little bit of everything in the backfield and was a high school quarterback as well.
Dantonio said that it’s Heyward’s versatility that stands out to him most and added that he’s been impressed with the sophomore running back during offseason workouts.
“Conor is 228 pounds, he can do so many things from the tailback position,” he said. “He looks very, very good.”
Be sure to stay tuned to Spartan Nation for all of the latest news on the 2018 Michigan State football.
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