Mark Dantonio has done an amazing job gathering talent in his offensive backfield and should once again pay huge dividends in the fall.  Photo courtesy of Troy Benoit.

Mark Dantonio has done an amazing job gathering talent in his offensive backfield and should once again pay huge dividends in the fall. Photo courtesy of Troy Benoit.

 

Michigan State running backs coach Brad Salem, in only his second year on the job, has arguably one of the best backfields in the Big Ten. Boasting a 1,000-yard rusher and two other dangerous backs, the Spartans are loaded at the running back position. Led by Salem, this solid stable of backs could cause big headaches for opposing teams.

The Spartans’ system requires a big man to help the running back plow through the opposing defense: “In our offense, you need a fullback, whether it be a fullback or a tight end to establish the run.” Departed fullback Nick Bendzuck leaves a big gap at the fullback position. As of now, senior Todd Anderson will probably be in that position next year.

Another topic of discussion this spring has been the idea of utilizing the two back system in order to put two talented MSU backs on the field at the same time. “As far as two tailback [formations], that’s a part of our scheme,” said Salem. “We’ve talked about it; we’re going to experiment a little bit with it this spring.”

When it comes down to his players, Salem has the utmost confidence in them. “Our guys are all capable,” Salem stated. “They’re very smart football players, so they can be in different positions, whether it’s to be route runners or blockers or just coming out of the backfield.” The coach has every right to be confident in his players: he has multiple young backs with plenty of potential at his disposal.

Junior Edwin Baker was the back who stole the spotlight last season, racking up 1,201 yards and 13 touchdowns. Despite these impressive stats, he will not have the starting job handed to him on a silver platter, as Coach Salem has expressed. “Edwin likes [the competition]; he doesn’t want anything handed it to him.”

Salem has acknowledged that the Spartans are blessed with depth at the running back position: “We’ve got more than one [running back]. We’ve got guys we can win football games with.” This is definitely true, as junior Larry Caper and sophomore LeVeon Bell have both shown prowess in the backfield. Caper ran for over 8.5 yards per rush in limited time last season, while Bell notched 605 yards and 8 touchdowns on the year.  Meanwhile, red-shirt freshman Nick Hill is looming in the background.  As Salem has affirmed, the young back with “good ball skills” will receive opportunities to prove himself.

Clearly there will be a battle in the upcoming weeks and months for the feature back position. Coach Salem has a group of players eager for playing time. In describing his backs, he said, “They’re competitive. It’s hard to be in that position. Those guys compete every day.” Though there is much competition at the position, the backs have still done well as a team. “They’ve done a nice job playing together and pushing each other,” Salem affirmed. “They’re trying to make each other better.”