Should one or both of his transfer running backs become stars, Michigan State coach Mel Tucker might want to try his hand at the state lottery — because his luck would be unprecedented, becoming the first coach in the Portal Era to take someone else’s scraps and turn them into gold in East Lansing.

Now, this isn’t to say that Kenneth Walker III was just some scrub before joining the Spartans. The former Wake Forest RB was one of the best in the ACC; he just needed a bigger stage/role in order to properly introduce himself to the masses — which he did in 2021, a season in which he rushed for 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns. Prior to transferring, he had a pair of 579-yard campaigns with the Demon Deacons, so it’s not like he was some nobody.

Again, he just needed the right environment to showcase his talent. He won the Doak Walker Award (best RB) and was a topic of Heisman discussion.

The same could be said this year for Jalen Berger, formerly of Wisconsin, and Jarek Broussard, formerly of Colorado. Berger showed promise with the Badgers, while Broussard did the same with the Buffaloes — Tucker’s previous program before joining the Spartans in 2020. They may not be Heisman contenders or Walker winners, but they could certainly command some attention.

The season of Walker in East Lansing has come to a conclusion, so it’s time to focus on the here-and-now in regard to the Spartans’ potential rushing force this fall. In an attempt to gather more data, in order to make projections, let’s take a deep dive into the history of Berger and Broussard, a pair of RBs who appear to be the go-to ball-carriers as Tucker prepares for his third season at MSU.

Scoop on Berger

Berger is looking for a clean start in East Lansing after a precipitous fall from grace in Madison. In the span of 1 year, Berger went from a promising freshman who led the Badgers in rushing in 2020 to being dismissed from the team a month into the 2021 season.

Paul Chryst and Wisconsin moved on with transfer Chez Mellusi and true freshman sensation Braelon Allen, never specifying why Berger got booted after playing sparingly in 3 of the team’s first 4 games (24 carries, 88 yards). It was a surprising turn of events considering Berger led the Badgers in rushing in 2020 (301 yards, 5.0 per carry) despite missing 3 of their 7 games because of injuries.

Berger should be highly motivated to put whatever issues existed at Wisconsin in the past and seize the opportunity in front of him now that Walker is in the NFL.

At 6-f00t and roughly 200 pounds, Berger has the size to absorb some hits; however, he’s been clocked with a 4.6-second 40-yard dash, so he also has the quickness to make plays and elude would-be tacklers. During spring practices, he made a few head-turning plays, possibly foreshadowing what’s to come this fall.

With that said, he’s yet to prove that he’s an every-down back, which is something that the Spartans need in order to be truly comfortable on offense. In 2020, he played in 4 games, carrying the ball 15 times each Saturday. In fact, he’s never carried the ball more than 15 times during his collegiate career, nor has he rushed for more than 100 yards (career-high 93 and 87 twice).

That’s an extremely limited sample size of Berger’s work, but there is reason to believe he’ll be a weapon for the Spartans, who haven’t had to reload the backfield this much in years. Maybe going back to the days of Javon Ringer? It’s been at least 12 years since Michigan State has had to replace such a major producer at the RB position.

There are two obvious scenarios: Either Berger develops into the No. 1 option, or he serves as a reliable secondary means of running the ball. Either way, the Spartans have some wiggle room in that department, thanks to the other transfer who came aboard during the offseason.

Examining Broussard

Contrary to Berger’s role at Wisconsin, Broussard was actually the star of Colorado’s ground game this past season. With a team-high 142 carries for 661 yards as a sophomore, Broussard (5-9, 185) appeared to be scratching the surface of his true potential. The Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year in 2020, he could very well serve as MSU’s next spark out of the backfield — or he could potentially develop into MSU’s top overall offensive threat, given that he’s already earned top offensive player honors in another major conference.

In 2020, he opened with a streak that very few could accomplish, rushing for 187, 121, 124 and 301 yards while helping the Buffaloes win 4 consecutive games, adding 80 and 82 during the final 2 games of the shortened season (both losses).

Knee injuries have put a damper on his overall progress, but there is no doubting that Broussard has the talent — based on his track record — to become a premier threat for the Spartans. He leaves Colorado as the team’s leading rusher the past 2 seasons and has shown the ability to carry the ball upward of 25 times per game, sometimes even reaching 30 carries. In 2021, he only saw about half that total per game but still proved to be a major component of CU’s offense.

Broussard was named to the preseason Doak Walker watch list, so take that into account as well. The Spartans have a potential award-winning RB1 set to roam their backfield.

And he can catch the ball. In 2021, he had 13 receptions for 81 yards.

Should one or both newcomers become stars, Tucker would look like a soothsayer — a true clairvoyant. Does he know something nobody else knows about transfer running backs? Or has he just been lucky? Or has it been a combination of both? To be good, a little luck is needed. With just a touch of good fortune, Michigan State could end up with a two-pronged RB attack that could stack up against anyone in the Big Ten.