MSU Running Back Job Up for Grabs

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There's a logjam in East Lansing.It can be found in the Michigan State backfield as spring practice heats up, behind the quarterback, where Javon Ringer single-handedly kept the timber rolling smoothly downhill all of last season.But now that the Spartans' workhorse is graduating to the NFL, a new set of hooves is desperately needed.And three backs are kicking at the stable doors, itching to burst away from the pack.

As spring practice rolls ever closer to the April 25 Green & White game, head coach Mark Dantonio will be watching for some separation from the big three."Guys like Andre Anderson, Ashton Leggett and A.J. Jimmerson, they're going to have a lot of opportunities to carry the football this spring," he said last week.And with those opportunities, each back will have a chance to display his unique skill set, as well as prove he has the complete game needed to be the number one guy in a Big Ten backfield.

Anderson is perhaps the most likely candidate to step into the number one position.The best pure runner of the trio, he definitely has the speed of a top-line college running back.And last year, Anderson saw the field the most of any backup, finishing a far-distant second to the dominating Ringer with 97 rushing yards on the season.

Jimmerson, a St. Louis native, came to Michigan State with high accolades and lofty expectations.The career backup will have one last shot to make an impact on the field, but as a senior, he will be relied upon for essential leadership off the field as well.A natural pass catcher with the best hands of the three vying for the starter’s job, Jimmerson will be looking to round out his game through spring and fall camps as he works to rise to the top.

Leggett is a load, pure and simple.He is also the best blocking back of the three, and for an MSU team that will be breaking in a brand new quarterback, that is a significant skill.Last season he took some short-yardage snaps and was the only one of the big three backups to score a rushing touchdown.

But if one of those three can't create some separation, perhaps a youngster will.Spartan Nation expects estranged running back Glenn Winston back on the team by fall, and after rising fortunes on the field late last year, most notably returning kickoffs for 364 yards, he'll look to climb back into the playing rotation after a tumultuous off season.And Caulton Ray, while not expected to vie for the starter’s job, will be relied upon to continue developing and secure a backup role.

In the end, if no one grabs the brass ring, a pair of true freshman are licking their chops after watching Ringer rack up an obscene number of carries and yards last year.Edwin Baker, of Oak Park, comes in with a pinch more hype, but Battle Creek Central's Larry Caper might be better prepared to handle the transition to the college game.Caper has the larger body with an inch and ten pounds on Baker, who battled through injuries and missed four games last year, perhaps shifting his developmental curve behind Caper's.But at this point, little else separates the two phenoms, and for a program that seems to have an insatiable appetite for quality running backs, the frosh will certainly be in the mix.

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