Michigan State new assistant coaches Chuck Bullough, Paul Haynes and Don Treadwell discuss their transitions back to the Spartans’ staff. Recorded Tuesday, March 27.
Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press
EAST LANSING — Michigan State’s backfield has had a tough time divvying up carries the past three years.
But Gerald Holmes graduated after the Holiday Bowl. And then Madre London announced he would be on the move to Tennessee as a graduate transfer, leaving LJ Scott as the lone returning running back with experience.
Enter Connor Heyward.
The sophomore played there a little last year, and he is hoping this spring to cement his role as the No. 2 ball-carrier behind Scott this fall.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Heyward said Tuesday. “Madre was a great back, and I wish him the best when he goes to Tennessee. I think he’ll do some major things. He was another big brother, him and (Gerald Holmes) and LJ. We all show love and don’t really care who gets the ball, and we’re just gonna support whoever is in the game.”
Scott, now a senior, led MSU with 201 carries, 898 yards and eight touchdowns last season. The Spartans will lose the 162 carries, 591 yards and four TDs that London and Holmes combined for.
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The 6-foot, 228-pound Heyward, as a true freshman, made his mark on special teams as a kick returner first. That allowed him to creep into some two-back sets, flanking out as a wideout on occasion.
“I just went out there, and they trusted me,” said Heyward, who said he will continue to return kicks this fall. “I’m thankful for the opportunity and hopefully I can make more of it. Anything – special teams, that’s the way. Most guys don’t understand that. You show what you can do on special teams. If they can trust you with that, they’ll trust you with anything.
Heyward eventually ran the ball three times for 10 yards and grabbed four passes for 13 yards, including his first career touchdown on a 7-yard catch in the regular-season finale against Rutgers.
“He’s gonna be a special guy,” Scott said of Heyward.
With the departures, Heyward is sharing carries with Scott this spring as the Spartans are thin on numbers. They moved Austin Andrews to running back from safety with redshirt freshman Weston Bridges still recovering from a knee injury and while MSU waits for incoming freshmen Elijah Collins and La’Darius Jefferson.
That has allowed Heyward to flash his talents. And he is relishing the opportunity to grow into a bigger weapon on offense.
“Pressure is good. It makes diamonds. Just don’t bust,” Heyward said. “You gotta like pressure. … I mean, you have nerves obviously. But you can’t get nervous. You’re at Michigan State. There’s gonna be pressure on you regardless, no matter what sport you’re playing or what you’re doing.”
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