Heading into the 2011 season, MSU has a stable of tailbacks four deep.Â Caper was limited last year after injuring his arm.Â Baker became the feature back crossing the 1000-yard mark and Leâ€™Veon Bell emerged as MSUâ€™s freshman star.Â Fast-forward to the fall of 2011 and youâ€™ll clearly see three highly skilled tailbacks ready to carry the load and a fourth in Nick Hill that is more than capable.
Baker has the quick burst and the ability to take one to the house before a â€˜backer buttons his chinstrap.Â Caper on the other hand glides a little bit, deceptively accelerating while hitting the hole.Â Bell is the big bruiser, but he is smooth at the same time.Â His long stride makes him hard to bring down and often defenders underestimate just how fast heâ€™s moving. Â
Hill is largely unknown to the Spartan Nation.Â His stature (5â€™7â€, 185 pounds) makes him a certain change of pace.Â Weâ€™ll likely see Hill on special teams throughout the year as a return man and blocker.
Much has been talked about surrounding the relationship that these guys have with one another.Â They genuinely do care about one another, cheer each other on and have a team first mentality.Â Coach Brad Salem has made sure of that.Â Every one of them would like to be 1000-yard back.Â They are all fierce competitors.Â MSUâ€™s tailback trio (Caper, Baker and Bell) are all feature backs.Â Theyâ€™re all capable of playing in the NFL and probably will.
The Big Ten season gets long.Â Teams never get through the year with one running back.Â In fact, three are quite necessary.Â The depth at this position allows each of these guys an opportunity to stay fresh.Â A fresh set of legs in the fourth quarter can be overwhelming for a defense.Â
The days of one back carrying the load in the Big Ten are likely over.Â Linebackers are just too fast, safeties are just too big, defensive ends are 300 pounds and run like a linebacker used to ten years ago.
The game has evolved and with it has come more diversified sets, more need for different types of personnel and depth at any number of positions.Â It can be the difference between a .500 record and a ten-win season.Â Â Javon Ringer recently had this to say to Spartan Nation about playing in the NFL.Â â€œProbably the best thing for me was going to the NFL with a team that had Chris Johnson.Â I basically got to sit for two years and heal.Â I am now in the best physical shape of my life.â€Â Â
Truth is that other than individual awards, not much can be said for carrying the ball thirty times a game.Â Â This is precisely why you donâ€™t need to be a big time college back to make an impact in the NFL.
The best thing Caper, Baker, Bell and Hill may have going for themselves is one another.Â The fresher their legs, the better their yards per carry.Â The more times they break a big run and take it to the end zone, the more they will be seen on Sportscenter.Â The more MSU wins, the more exposure each of them will get.
The difference between MSU and Alabama during the bowl game came right down to NFL ready talent.Â Alabama had four first round draft choices.Â MSU had a couple really good players taken in the sixth round.Â The talent is steadily rising and MSUâ€™s running backs are a great example.Â Expect Caper, Baker or Bell to lead MSU in rushing any given Saturday.Â Itâ€™s a nice luxury to have.