Heyward adds another dimension to Spartans ground game
East Lansing – Senior starter LJ Scott is Michigan State’s known commodity at running back, but Connor Heyward took advantage of the spring game stage to show his versatility.
Heyward can run — he had 11 carries for 44 yards and a touchdown – he can catch out of the backfield and has worked at wildcat and threw a pass on a two-point conversion late in Michigan State’s spring game at Spartan Stadium on Saturday.
“He did a great job,” MSU quarterback Brian Lewerke said. “He’s athletic, he’s got fantastic hands. He can throw the ball. He’s very smart, athletic.”
The Spartans will have a strong 1-2 punch in Scott and Heyward, whose role has grown because of Madre London’s transfer and Gerald Holmes graduating.
Heyward said he has been throwing the ball more as the offense adds wrinkles.
“We put that play in today,” he said of his throw on the conversion to backup quarterback Rocky Lombardi. “There were technical difficulties when we were trying to watch it on film and we were going to use if it if we got to and, obviously, we had to to win the game.”
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio praised Heyward for his versatility and said he could play in the return game.
“He does a lot of different things in the backfield for us,” Dantonio said. “He played quarterback in high school. He does a lot of things and is a very good football player and he’s only a freshman (heading into his sophomore season). Feel good about that position.”
Heyward said he’s benefited from the increased workload in spring practice.
“It’s definitely been a lot, but I think it helps also because it helped prepare me for today and obviously LJ (Scott), he’s played a lot in his career, so he doesn’t really need all those reps,” he said. “But I think it helped me tremendously and I think it helped LJ, too. I think it helped us get in to shape a little bit more and just you know learning everything, not from only the running back perspective but everything.”
Getting to the center
There was an Allen starting at center — Matt Allen, whose brother, Brian Allen, was the team’s center last year.
Michigan State left guard David Beedle did not play, nor did left tackle Cole Chewins, giving younger players a chance to get more playing time.
“They did a great job,” Lewerke said of the offensive linemen. “Almost every guy played at every position by now. Matt did a great job at center. That’s still a guy I’m learning how he works and operates. But he did a great job.”
One more practice
While the game was held at Spartan Stadium for the fans willing to brave the chilly temperatures on Saturday, the Spartans still have one remaining practice on Tuesday.
“It’s good. It’s something that was kinda new last year,” Lewerke said. “It’s worked really well because we can go back and see what we messed up and work on it on Tuesday and also the coaches. We can watch the game and fix the stuff we messed up.”