Last season, Michigan State surprised a lot of people with how much success they had on the football field. The Spartans ended the year with an 11-2 record, while going undefeated at home. Although Quarterback Payton Thorne had a very good year, Michigan State would not have had the stunning season they did without superstar Running Back Kenneth Walker III. In his only season with the Spartans, after transferring from Wake Forest, Walker totaled 1,725 yards from scrimmage, while also finding the end zone 19 times. This led to Walker finishing sixth overall in the Heisman voting. After Walker was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the most recent NFL Draft, Michigan State football has one obvious question heading into the upcoming season. How will they replace Kenneth Walker III?
This question can not be answered by a single player, but will of course take a group effort. The following players, in my opinion, are the most likely candidates to step up now that Kenneth Walker III is gone.
Transfer from Wisconsin – Running Back Jalen Berger
Jalen Berger is a Redshirt Sophomore Running Back for Michigan State. Berger grabbed quite a few headlines throughout his time in Wisconsin. However, these headlines were far from positive, as they mainly pertained to him getting dismissed from the team. The school did not give an official reason as to why Berger was dismissed, but it was reported that he was unhappy that the Badgers brought in, former Clemson Running Back, Chez Mellusi as the new starter.
Why Michigan State?
Once Berger chose to go to Michigan State through the transfer portal, he immediately knew he had a chance to be the starter in East Lansing. While Berger only played in a mere seven games in his two seasons at Wisconsin, it appears that Spring practices have already been enough for the coaching staff to like what they see in Berger. Following a scrimmage the Spartans had in mid-April, Running Backs coach Effrem Reed told reporters Berger “took a tremendous jump forward.” Reed cited reasons such as Berger’s ability to make people miss, and Berger’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, for his positive remarks on the transfer from Wisconsin.
It is safe to say that Berger is one of the two current favorites to win the starting Running Back role for Michigan State. He brings a versatile skill set that mixes power with elusiveness, somewhat similar to Kenneth Walker III’s traits. Although, Berger is not the only Running Back that chose to transfer to Michigan State this off season.
Transfer from Colorado – Running Back Jarek Broussard
Spending a lot of time in Colorado, Jarek Broussard has the accolades to show he’s a star. The graduate transfer won Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year in his Sophomore season with the Buffaloes. Broussard also has a career total of 1,556 rushing yards to go along with seven career rushing touchdowns. Plus, the former Buffalo has also accumulated six games in his career where he has gotten at least 100 yards.
Broussard is arguably the top dog in the Spartans backfield pecking order. He did very well in the Spring game, just like Jalen Berger. However, Broussard seemed to dazzle everyone with his patience running the ball, something Berger did not do very much. Recent history would suggest that patience is a virtue for Michigan State Running Backs. Similarly to Broussard, former Spartan Le’Veon Bell had tons of comments on his level of patience while running the ball. Bell was able to help Michigan State reach the College Football Playoffs, time will tell if Broussard can too.
Broussard has the accolades, plus the skill set, to be featured as the starter in the opening game this season. He is able to do things that Jalen Berger is not known for, such as utilizing his patience. Also, any time a Michigan State Running Back shows similarities to Le’Veon Bell, they are worth keeping an eye on.
Redshirt Freshman – Running Back Davion Primm
While it is unlikely that Davion Primm wins the starting role, he has been electrifying so far this offseason. Primm took a redshirt year last season, which means this will be his first season of real college football. After not taking a single snap in any of last year’s games, Primm has been terrific during Spring practices. Following a practice this Spring, Head Coach Mel Tucker said “It’s an alert, be on alert” when speaking of Primm. One of Tucker’s reasons for saying that people need to “be on alert” in regards to Primm is that Davion did a great job of showing off his skills. Primm did this in practice by making a defender completely miss him as he was running through the hole in the offensive line.
Michigan State has seven Running Backs on their roster, so getting playing time is by no means a guarantee. This goes to show that making an early impression on the coaches is crucial. Primm is maximizing his opportunity by showcasing himself at his best every chance he gets. Jalen Berger and Jarek Broussard are early favorites to get game time at Running Back for the Spartans. However, Primm can get himself a role in the offense this season too.
Ultimately, the Michigan State Spartans should be fine with any of their top Running Backs on the field. A legitimate passing attack and solid offensive line will help out anyone in the backfield whether it be Berger, Broussard or Primm. Kenneth Walker III may be gone, but the Spartans are still as strong as ever.
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