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Thursday, September 25, 2008
Javon Ringer and the burnout factor

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Michigan State has no hidden agenda on offense. The Spartans give the ball to senior running back Javon Ringer and let him do his thing. Through four games, the Spartans and Ringer aren't showing any signs of letting up or slowing down.

Ringer already has 143 carries, 30 more than any other FBS back. If Michigan State reaches a bowl game and Ringer maintains his current pace (35.75 cpg), he would finish the season with 464.75 carries, surpassing the FBS single-season record of 450 set by Central Florida's Kevin Smith last season. Smith, who played in 14 games, broke Marcus Allen's 26-year-old record for single-season carries (403) and became the first back to eclipse 400 carries in a season since Iowa State's Troy Davis in 1996.

It's interesting that in a sporting climate of controlled pitch counts and 45-second line changes that college football could produce 400-carry running backs in consecutive seasons. The 12-game regular season and the proliferation of league championship games obviously play a role, but you've got to admire the durability of these players.

Michigan State fans, of course, are justifiably more concerned about whether Ringer can hold up with such a heavy workload during a full season. He's not the biggest back in the world (5-9, 202 pounds), and he's never had more than 245 carries in a season. Ringer is a weight-room freak and appears to be in phenomenal shape. His ability to break off a 63-yard run in the closing minutes of last week's game against Notre Dame was truly astounding. But every player has a limit, and Michigan State needs to be careful with Ringer.

Opposing defenses likely will do their part to decrease Ringer's touches by continuing to crowd the box. UCF's Smith had three games of 22 carries or fewer last season, and Ringer can expect about the same. It's still somewhat confusing why Ringer remains on the kickoff return team -- head coach Mark Dantonio is rolling the dice there -- and it would be wise to get Andre Anderson a few more touches.

Here's hoping Ringer holds up and continues to provide great theater throughout the fall as the Big Ten's iron man.