The Large Ten has produced its share of top-flight working backs over time.
This yr is not any completely different with the emergence of Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker, who follows in a longstanding custom of Large Ten working backs taking each the school and finally NFL circuits by storm.
From Jonathan Taylor at Wisconsin, to Le’Veon Bell at Michigan State or Saquon Barkley at Penn State, a few of the finest working backs within the league at one time or one other hailed from the Large Ten.
However Walker’s journey, at the very least partially, is completely different than the current outstanding Large Ten working backs: he hasn’t been a 1,000 yard speeding menace till now, his junior yr, and hasn’t been a function again till this yr, both. He additionally is not a receiving menace out of the backfield the best way Barkley, Bell and different contemporaries had been.
This is not about what Walker cannot do or hasn’t executed up till now. Relatively it is a have a look at how over the course of the primary half of the season, the Wake Forest switch grew to become among the best working backs within the nation.
Walker at present ranks first within the Large Ten and second within the NCAA in speeding yards with 997 and fifth within the convention in speeding touchdowns with 9. He is additionally amassed 4 video games with over 120 yards speeding, together with two video games with over 200 yards speeding.
The Spartans at present sit at 7-Zero and are ranked No. eight within the nation forward of a marquee matchup in opposition to No. 6 and fellow 7-Zero foe Michigan, and Walker is a giant cause for Michigan State’s success.
This is every little thing you’ll want to learn about one of many emergent working again abilities within the nation.
Why did Kenneth Walker III switch to Michigan State?
Walker began at Wake Forest, the place he spent his first two years taking part in for Dave Clawson.
He put his title within the switch portal on Jan. 5, 2021 and it took him just one day to announce his subsequent vacation spot. It is labored out nicely up to now was Walker has been among the best transfers within the nation in 2021.
Previous to transferring, Walker opted out of the Demon Deacons’ last two recreation of the yr in 2020, citing COVID-19 issues.
A lot of his determination to switch stemmed from the kind of offensive Wake Forest and Clawson ran, which Walker felt was limiting.
“At Wake, I felt like I wasn’t in a position to showcase all of my expertise,” Walker said. “I consider I might be versatile. I can lower. I can run downhill. I consider I am an explosive again.”
Whereas Walker felt like he wanted a change of surroundings, the Spartans felt their working recreation additionally wanted an injection of some life after rating 13th within the Large Ten in speeding yards per recreation and averaging simply 2.5 yards per carry final yr.
“After final season, I felt like we wanted somebody who was an explosive playmaker,” MSU working backs coach Peagler told CBS Sports. “We had a whole lot of good backs, however I did not really feel like we had anybody who may hit their head on the purpose submit anytime they touched the ball.”
How good was Kenneth Walker III at Wake Forest?
Walker wasn’t an each down again for the Demon Deacons throughout his time at Wake Forest and so they had been considered one of solely three FBS groups that prolonged him a proposal.
The opposite two had been Kent State, the place he initially dedicated to, and Arkansas State. The Tennesse native finally selected Wake Forest and after a comparatively quiet, however environment friendly 2019, broke out considerably in 2020.
In simply seven video games with Wake Forest final season, Walker discovered the endzone 13 instances, which was third within the ACC and 10th nationally and sure may have added to these numbers if he did not decide out of the group’s last two video games.
All advised, in his two years at Wake Forest, Walker carried the ball 217 instances for 1,158 yards and 17 touchdowns.
How good has Kenneth Walker III been for Michigan State?
When Walker arrived in East Lansing, he was displaying as much as a crowded, albeit struggling working again room.
The Spartans ranked 13th out of 14 groups within the convention in speeding yards per recreation. They ranked within the bottom-five nationally in variety of runs that went 10 or extra yards.
They already added one three-star recruit and a switch from Auburn earlier than including Walker and nonetheless had two different scholarship working backs on the roster.
However Walker added one thing fully completely different.
“If I needed to describe myself in a method, I’d say explosive, an explosive again,” Walker said in August previous to the season. Connor Heyward, considered one of final yr’s main rushers for the Spartans even went as far as to say each time Walker touches the ball, it is a “dwelling run.”
The numbers bear that out. Walker’s bought 4 video games with over 120 speeding yards, together with two with over 200. He is additionally extremely effecient, averaging 6.6 yards per carry, and infrequently fumbles, having gone 338 carries courting again to 2019 with out fumbling as soon as — the longest present streak within the NCAA.
Michigan State had the nation’s 122nd finest working recreation final yr — now it is 32nd. And Walker’s impression has prolonged to the passing recreation as nicely, because the Spartans are top-25 nationally in passing effieciency.