EAST LANSING — In 2019, Elijah Collins almost became the first Michigan State player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since Jeremy Langford did it in 2014. He finished the season with 988 yards and comes into 2020 as the established workhorse. But according to new running backs coach William Peagler, he is far from the only horse in the stable.
The Spartans’ running back room is a strong mix of experience and youth with plenty of talent. Collins is the top returner, but Connor Heyward has lots of experience as well, and Peagler said that Heyward has “gone above and beyond” to be a leader in this group.
Brandon Wright and Anthony Williams Jr. both got some touches as true freshmen and showed flashes of potential, albeit in different ways. Wright is a big, strong power back, while Williams is a speedy, quick back that can burst into the secondary.
Peagler mentioned true freshmen Jordon Simmons and Donovan Eaglin as players that have been impressive in camp as well with their patience and intelligence. Peagler believes that Simmons has a bit more “home run” potential, but that both have the “ability to help the team right now.”
Peagler also said that he hopes the Spartans can use three or four different backs in a game. He says that if they can manage the carries and keep guys fresh, it can be a real advantage for them late in games. He feels that the Spartans “can win with whoever (they) put out there.”
Lastly, Peagler also mentioned that he would not close the door on potentially having Heyward and Wright contribute to the team in other ways, such as playing some tight end, due to their size and unique abilities.
MSU had some trouble running the ball in the past few seasons, but this group of running backs has the potential to be special in East Lansing.
Zach Surdenik is a general assignment reporter for WDBM Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @ZachSurdenik.