Michigan State Football: Connor Heyward’s new role is paying off

Connor Heyward, Michigan State football Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Connor Heyward, Michigan State football Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports /

Watching Connor Heyward run into five offensive linemen in a dreadful offensive performance at the tail-end of the Mark Dantonio tenure will forever haunt Michigan State football fans.

Heyward struggled to hit the hole once he received the ball in the backfield and his shiftiness, burst and agility were completely lackluster for a Power Five running back. It was clear that he wasn’t going to work out as the lead back in a pro-style offense, so Spartan fans pleaded he be moved to a position where more help was needed. He always showed flashes in the passing game with solid routes and hands that caught everything from Brian Lewerke.

Tight end or H-back was the perfect spot for him, yet Dantonio never moved him over and continued to let Heyward run into a green wall at the line of scrimmage for no gain.

At the end of the 2019 season, Heyward entered his name into the transfer portal and it looked like his time in East Lansing was coming to an end. During that time, Dantonio announced he would retire and Mel Tucker took over the program. After not picking a school, Heyward talked with Tucker and it was decided he would be able to keep his scholarship and remain a Spartan.

In 2020, Heyward was once again a running back, and yet again struggled like most players did last season for plenty of unfortunate reasons. This past offseason, it was seen that Heyward was finally moved to tight end and offensive coordinator Jay Johnson has been reaping the benefits of this.

Heyward has been a boost to Michigan State football

When Johnson was hired, he mentioned to the media that the “tight end is gonna be the MVP of our offense.” Last season that was far from true, but so far through three games Heyward has been an X-factor for Johnson.

Heyward has six catches this season for 77 yards. Now, that may seem like not that much, but the moment was never too big for Heyward. Multiple times it happened last week versus Miami where he caught the ball and ran for a first down when it was desperately needed.

In the Northwestern game, he caught a ball in front of the sticks and ended up fighting for the extra yards and ended up getting a first down on third-and-long. That possession also led to a touchdown, giving Michigan State a 14-point first-quarter lead on the defending Big Ten West champions. Heyward went catch-less in the Youngstown State game, but his services were not needed as Michigan State handled the Penguins with ease.

The blocking aspect has played a huge role in Heyward’s move to tight end. Even Kenneth Walker III has credited some of his success to Heyward’s willingness to block and do the little things to help gain every inch possible. Two of his big blocks led to touchdowns against Northwestern.

Then, in the Miami game, Heyward held off two Miami defenders leading to a Jayden Reed touchdown.

Heyward has played under three different offensive coordinators in his career. When most players would have quit, he came back and fought to get onto the field. His leadership and work ethic are unmatched and Mel Tucker is lucky to have him on his team.

The move to tight end/H-back has and will continue to pay dividends for the Spartans.

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