Michigan State Football: Elijah Collins will put up big numbers in 2020

Elijah Collins, Michigan State football (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
Elijah Collins, Michigan State football (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images) /

With a new staff in place for Michigan State football, that means we’ll see some major improvements, as well as a huge season from Elijah Collins.

Pound, green, pound. That has been the mantra for Michigan State football for years, but for whatever reason, the Spartans have veered away from running the ball down opponents’ throats over the past few years.

It all dates back to 2014, the last time Michigan State had a 1,000-yard rusher. Jeremy Langford was rushing for 100 yards in just about every Big Ten game and he fell under the radar as one of the nation’s least talked about star running backs. Since then, the Spartans have yet to field a 1,000-yard rusher, but have come close a couple of times.

In 2015, LJ Scott, Gerald Holmes and Madre London all split carries while the former was the back who had the highlight of the season, stretching his arm across the goal-line in the Big Ten Championship to send the Spartans to the playoff.

The next year, he rushed for 994 yards and it looked like he was a lock to be the Spartans’ next 1,000-yard rusher. He fell 102 yards short as a junior and was never healthy as a senior.

Connor Heyward was the No. 1 back in 2018 when Scott couldn’t stay healthy, but he didn’t do a ton behind a shaky offensive line, finishing with over 500 yards. He lost that starting job to Elijah Collins in 2019 and the rest was history.

Collins rushed for 988 yards and five touchdowns on 4.4 yards per carry and his breakout season caused Heyward to enter the transfer portal (he has since returned) and Weston Bridges, a former four-star running back, departed as well. He looked the part of a work-horse back, but still fell short of that 1,000-yard plateau.

That’s all going to change in 2020 under new leadership.

Michigan State had one of the worst offensive lines in 2019, and it’s not because it was void of talent. Actually, the Spartans had just brought in one of their best lineman recruiting classes and they were waiting in the wings for the veterans to graduate. That might be expedited in 2020 under Chris Kapilovich — one of the best offensive line coaches out there.

Replacing Jim Bollman with Kapilovich (who turned Colorado’s offensive line around in 2019) is a huge victory not only for the offensive line, but also for Collins.

If this kid can rush for nearly 1,000 yards behind the worst offensive line in the Big Ten, just imagine what he can do when he actually has lanes to run through.

Big numbers are coming his way, especially because Jay Johnson has stated that he wants to establish the run game and tight ends will be responsible for both running routes and blocking at an elite level.

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It may not have been obvious at the time of his hiring, but Kapilovich may turn out to be the best thing that has happened to Collins in his short time in East Lansing.