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Michigan State running backs: One thing I like, one thing I don't

How do the Spartans replace Kenneth Walker III's production?

Michigan State football is just days away from the start of summer conditioning, and we are just over three months away from the Spartans' season-opener against Western Michigan.

As we gear up for Year 3 of the Mel Tucker era in East Lansing, Spartan Nation will be taking closer looks at every position group on the Spartans' depth chart and pointing out one thing we like, one thing we don't and something to keep an eye on.

Today, we look at the position group that has the biggest shoes to fill from the 2021 roster: Running Back

One Thing I Like

Mel Tucker struck gold last offseason when he nabbed Kenneth Walker III out of the transfer portal. While that's not something one can expect to happen year in and year out, I do like the additions that Michigan State added to its running back room this offseason.

For my money, I'd bet on Colorado transfer Jarek Broussard to be the starter and primary ball-carrier for the Spartans in 2022. In two seasons with the Buffaloes, Broussard rushed for 1,556 yards on 298 carries (5.3 per carry) with seven touchdowns. He's a fluid runner who gets downhill and has good speed. I'm very eager to see Broussard in a Michigan State uniform.

Likewise, the addition of Wisconsin transfer Jalen Berger is very intriguing. He's a former four-star recruit, and showed flashes of being the next good Badger tailback in 2020, before he found himself buried on the depth chart and was ultimately dismissed from Wisconsin's team in 2021. There's certainly talent to tap into here, but there were also reports that Berger did not handle losing carries to his fellow Badger teammates very well at all. That's going to be something he'll need to have a better mindset about in East Lansing. In two seasons in Madison, Berger carried the ball 84 times for 389 yards and three touchdowns.

I expect these two guys to be the primary ball-carriers for the Spartans this season, and I like their potential as a one-two punch.

Michigan State also has a variety of other options to serve in different roles in the backfield. The Spartans get redshirt senior Elijah Collins back, who had a breakout season in 2019 when he rushed for 988 yards on 222 carries and five touchdowns. However, Collins struggled with injury each of the last two seasons. MSU also has a couple veterans who provide depth in Jordon Simmons and Harold Joiner. There's a lot to like about this running back room.

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One Thing I Don't

While Michigan State has good depth at tailback this season, I don't see a bonafide star in the Spartans backfield. That's what Kenneth Walker III was for MSU in 2022, and it was a major reason why the Spartans were able to win 10 games in the regular season. Can Michigan State replicate that without a guy like Walker in the backfield this season?

The Spartans have a rich history of star tailbacks: Lorenzo White, LeVeon Bell, Javon Ringer, T.J. Duckett, Jeremy Langford and others.

Who knows? Maybe somebody on this roster pops and has a great season. Heck, that's exactly what happened last season with Walker. But it's hard to strike gold like that in back-to-back seasons. If Michigan State doesn't have that run threat that every defense has to respect, that could put boundaries on how high the Spartans' ceiling is on offense.

One Thing To Keep An Eye On

Both head coach Mel Tucker and offensive coordinator Jay Johnson mentioned redshirt freshman Davion Primm unprompted, by name, this spring when talking about players who had stood out in spring practice.

Due to the nature of Michigan State's "spring game" in April, we didn't get to see much of Primm ourselves, but it certainly raises eyebrows when the head coach and offensive coordinator mention a young guy on multiple occasions.

Given the depth at tailback, it will be interesting to see how much Primm get on the field in 2022, and what areas the coaching staff wants to use the redshirt freshman. My best guess would be as a potential pass-catcher out of the backfield, as Primm has good speed an burst in open space. This is still a wait-and-see however, given how little we know about Primm at this point.

In Case You Missed It

This article is part of a series examining every position group on Michigan State's roster. You can find the other position groups that Spartan Nation has already covered here: (Quarterbacks, Running backs)

Twitter: @mlounsberry_SI