This past season, Michigan State football had a nearly impossible task. It had to replace All-American running back and Doak Walker Award winner Kenneth Walker III.
Mel Tucker tried to strike transfer portal gold again, landing Jalen Berger from Wisconsin and Jarek Broussard from Colorado to shoulder the backfield load.
It didn’t quite work out.
Broussard finished with just 298 yards and three touchdowns on 4.7 yards per carry while Berger had more success running the ball, totaling 683 yards and six touchdowns on 4.6 yards per carry. The average per rush wasn’t ideal, but some of that had to do with the offensive line’s struggles.
But no one could replace Walker III, just as we all suspected.
That hasn’t stopped Tucker from trying, however. He’s hit the portal again, finding Nathan Carter and Jaren Mangham to add to the backfield depth with Berger returning.
Can this trio return the run game back to relevance?
Michigan State football could benefit from backfield depth
Jordon Simmons returns at running back this season but I don’t see him having a major role as it has diminished every year since his freshman campaign in 2020.
Instead, I see three transfer backs getting the bulk of the carries.
Led by Berger, who could top his total of 683 yards from last year, I think the backfield will be in better shape than it was in 2022. Carter brings an electric style to the backfield and he hits holes hard and was explosive in 2022 with 405 yards and a touchdown in four games — he averaged 6.2 yards per carry before his season-ending injury. Mangham has spent time at Colorado and South Florida, totaling 1,251 yards and 23 touchdowns over four seasons.
Berger has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, reeling in a career-best 19 passes last season for MSU. That could help set him apart.
The backfield should be in good hands as I believe that Carter is a much better backup option than Broussard was a season ago. And having an experienced back and former four-star like Mangham as the third option is ideal.
I don’t think we’ll see 2021-type of success in the run game, but I think the backfield could finish in the top half of the Big Ten in rushing yards per game.