Michigan State’s offense received a major boost when Connor Heyward decided to pull his name out of the NCAA transfer portal and return to East Lansing. There was some question about how new offensive coordinator Jay Johnson would use the running back, though.
Expect to see Heyward occupying the backfield again next season.
“Right now, my intent is Connor to be a running back unless it would tell me different at a later date,” Johnson said during a teleconference, according to Chris Solari of the Detroit Free Press. “But certainly going into this, we’re glad that he’s back and I anticipate him being a running back.”
Johnson talked about building a strong running game at Michigan State, which has been an issue for the Spartans each of the last two seasons. In 2018 and 2019, MSU failed to average 130 yards per game on the ground and finished both seasons ranked 13th in the B1G in production in the run game.
Having multiple guys in the backfield with experience would certainly help that. And while Heyward cut his 2019 campaign short after hitting the transfer portal four games into the season, he’s still seen plenty of reps out of the backfield.
In three seasons at MSU, Heyward has taken 145 handoffs for 618 yards and five touchdowns. In 2018, he led the Spartans in rushing with 529 yards on 118 carries.
Last year, Heyward started the year as the No. 1 guy but Elijah Collins stepped up in a big way and nearly produced a 1,000-yard season in East Lansing. He finished with 988 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman.
With both guys in the backfield, Michigan State’s run game should have a solid foundation for the 2020 season.