With the college football season finally here, it is time for Impact Sports to breakdown the backfield of the Spartan’s offense.
This is the last installment of the summer position group breakdown series.
SafetiesCornerbacksLinebackersDefensive LineOffensive LineWide ReceiversTight Ends
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Key Departure: Andrew Maxwell
Maxwell took over as starting quarterback during the 2012 season and struggled to solidify his role as the team’s main signal caller, creating a tough position battle that next spring.
He was awarded the starting role at the beginning of 2013, but after the offense was lackluster in its first few games, the coaching staff decided to give Connor Cook a shot.
Cook showed improvement as each game went by and went on to lead the Spartans to a Rose Bowl victory.
Since Maxwell was a backup, his departure might seem unimportant. Although he may not have made an impact on the field, he was a positive figure in the locker room and helped mentor Cook along the way.
Maxwell also was the only player from these position groups to graduate after last season.
Key Returner: Connor Cook
No surprise here that Cook would be the key returner for the Spartan’s backfield. The 6-foot-4, 218-pound junior had an incredible mid-season growth last year en route to earning MVP awards for both the Big Ten Championship Game and the Rose Bowl.
With the exception of wide receiver Bennie Fowler, all of Cook’s receiving targets from last season are back in 2014 and look to be better than ever.
Michigan State’s offensive line loses three starters from last season, but a group of talented guys in that group look fill up those holes.
Along with those returners, breakout running back Jeremy Langford returns for his senior season, which will help give the offense some great balance.
Essentially, Cook has all the weapons around him to not just duplicate his success from a year ago, but build on it as well.
With Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller going down for the season with a shoulder injury, Cook should be considered the Big Ten’s best quarterback.
Other Contributors: Jeremy Langford, Tyler O’Connor, Nick Hill, Damion Terry and Delton Williams
Unlike a year ago, there was no quarterback controversy this offseason as Cook made sure there was no question as to who the starter should be.
However, there was a very competitive battle for the backup spot between O’Connor and Terry. O’Connor is currently listed as the second quarterback on the depth chart, but Spartan coaches were impressed by both of their performances during the offseason.
There has also been discussions on implementing Terry into the offense in different dynamic packages. The redshirt freshman lined up as a running back, receiver and quarterback in this year’s spring game.
The undeniable starter at running back is Langford, who is coming off a huge season where he rushed for 1,422 yards and led the Big Ten with 18 touchdowns.
Behind Langford is a bevy of talented rushers who will all compete for carries. Hill is a speedy senior who can make some big plays in the open field. He rushed for 344 yards in 2013.
Williams, a high school teammate of Terry, had an impressive 2013 campaign as a true freshman. He did not see any action until the Iowa game and finished the year with 238 rushing yards on only 38 carries, an impressive 6.3 yards per carry.
Preseason Grade: A
These two units are some of the best on the Michigan State roster. A year ago they were two of the Spartan’s biggest question marks. Breakout seasons by both Cook and Langford helped turn those negatives into positives and now they look to be among the best in the nation.
There is also good depth behind both of those guys. Should anything happen to Cook, both O’Connor and Terry have impressed the coaching staff and are more than capable of running Michigan State’s offense.
Langford has a strong group of backs behind him that can give him rest when necessary. Along with Hill and Williams, redshirt freshman Gerald Holmes and true freshman Madre London will be able to get some carries to help take some pressure off of Langford.
Dan Tyler is the host of Spartan Red Zone for Impact Sports
Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports