Most times in life, one must choose: quality or quantity? For the 2016 Michigan State Spartans, they might be able to have both, at least when it comes to running backs.
2015 was a year of fresh faces, with LJ Scott, Madre London and Gerald Holmes each registering 500 or more rushing yards during their respective freshman campaigns. Now, with a year under their belts the trio of talented backs will look to make it a sensational sophomore season. The first step to a breakout campaign starts in this Saturday's Spring Game.
Scott will carry the load for the #WhiteSquad (along with Nick Tompkins) while London and Holmes will share the ball carrying duties for the #GreenSquad. All three figure to get extensive carries not only in this game but also early in the regular season.
Dave Warner will (hopefully) be a little more strategic in his deployment of this unit when the games start to count. He got carried away with the "hot hand" philosophy a year ago, oftentimes preventing his young backs from getting into a rhythm.
London's injury most certainly played a major role in that, but this fall the team would be better served following the Jeremy Langford-Nick Hill model: having an established top back getting the majority of the carries and talented backups spelling him a few drives each game. If you were handicapping the race today, Scott would be the odds-on favorite to be the workhorse.
The Hubbard, Ohio native led all Spartan rushers in carries (146) yardage (699) and touchdowns (11) last season as a true freshman, showing glimpses of the incredible potential that made fans and coaches alike drool over him as a recruit. He has the best combination of size, speed and agility of any back and, at the very least, figures to get goal line carries, as he already tips the scales at (at least) 235 pounds.
London and Holmes won't back down easily. Both had some very impressive moments in 2015 and played key roles in several Spartan victories, but if they want to catch the lead dawg, they'd better take advantage of opportunities such as the Green-White game.
London, who began last season as the starter, has showed flashes of incredible straight line speed. He's at his best when he can put his foot in the ground, make one cut and take off. In theory, his speed is a natural compliment to Scott's powerful running style but Holmes has his own strong case to make.
If Scott is the thunder and London is the lightning, Holmes is the...Tornado? Flash Flood? This inclement weather analogy really fell apart on me...A-HA, he's an avalanche! Wait for it...What he lacks on either end of the speed-power spectrum he makes up for with relentless effort. He always runs downhill (NAILED IT) and fights his way for the extra yardage with most of his big runs coming because he never stopped churning his legs. His ceiling may not be as high, but should either of the other backs slip up, Holmes will be there waiting for his opportunity.
This is a wonderful predicament MSU finds themselves in. They have three talented backs with differing styles, all of whom could start at a lot of schools around the country. Like we all saw last year, finding consistent carries for each of them will be difficult but if Warner can strike a balance (and the revamped offensive line can open holes for them........) the MSU ground game should continue to be a strength.