Langford stabilizes Michigan State rushing game
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Michigan State senior running back Jeremy Langford played multiple positions early in his college career, bouncing around in erratic fashion. Now he's the most consistent running back in the Big Ten.
''He's one of those kids you feel is a success story (for) somebody that's just battled through a lot,'' MSU assistant and former running backs coach Brad Salem said.
Langford led MSU (8-2 overall, 5-1 Big Ten) with 138 rushing yards during the Spartans' win over Maryland (6-4, 3-3) over the weekend, marking the 14th consecutive 100-plus yard rushing performance against a conference opponent.
The streak began with a 109-yard game during a homecoming win over Indiana on Oct. 12, 2013 and included a 128-yard performance in the Big Ten championship game against Ohio State. It will be on the line again when MSU hosts Rutgers (6-4, 2-4) at noon Saturday during Langford's final game at Spartan Stadium.
''It's been a crazy journey,'' Langford said. ''Looking back today, I just thank God and thank coach (Mark Dantonio) for staying with me and believing in me and giving me a chance.''
Langford played defensive back and on special teams during his redshirt freshman season and switched to running back as a sophomore following a brief stint at wide receiver during spring practice in 2012. He was admittedly hesitant and wanted to play running back exclusively.
''He sat in my office and we had long discussions about what position he was going to play,'' Dantonio said. ''When he moved to defensive back he didn't really want to move. I sort of forced the issue. Then he bounced back. He always wanted to play running back and I would always force the issue, saying, `You're too good of an athlete to be standing on the sidelines.'''
Langford stood out on special teams as a sophomore but was viewed as a long shot to win the starting running back job as a junior in 2013. He was listed third on the depth chart entering fall camp.
''His junior season coming in, a lot of people would give up on themselves and he came out strong and kept fighting,'' left tackle Jack Conklin said. ''He didn't start the first couple games but kept going hard in practice and not slowing down. I think that's where he finally won it and finally stood out and (said), `I'm here to stay and I'm not going to give up working hard.' Now I think you can see what's come of that.''
Langford ultimately seized the role and rushed for 1,422 yards and 18 touchdowns, aiding the Spartans en route to their first Rose Bowl victory since 1988.
''To see him flourish like he did last year, that was a little life lesson for a lot of our players and really a lot of our coaches and probably myself as well,'' Dantonio said. ''Don't give up on players, see it through. Players don't give up on your dreams. . There were a lot of lessons learned there.''
Langford is set to graduate in December and said he realizes why Dantonio kept nudging him away from the only position he wanted to play early in his career. Finally secure and excelling in his dream spot at running back, everything makes sense for Langford now.
''We had great running backs at the time, which I didn't really pay attention to because I was young and frustrated,'' Langford said. ''Now I think he was trying to give me a chance and an opportunity to be a playmaker. The rest was up to me.''