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Thursday, January 3, 2013
MSU's Le'Veon Bell to enter NFL draft

By Brian Bennett

In probably the least surprising move by a Big Ten underclassmen, Michigan State junior running back Le'Veon Bell has decided to enter the NFL draft.

Not doing so would have been an insult to Bell's own body. He carried the ball 382 times this year, more than any other player in the country. And he did it well, producing 1,793 yards -- third best in the FBS -- and four games of at least 188 yards. His highlights included a 210-yard rushing game in the opener against Boise State, 253 yards versus Michigan State and 266 vs. Nebraska.

Le'Veon Bell
Le'Veon Bell piled up 1,793 rushing yards while leading the nation in carries (382) this season.
In the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl win over TCU, Bell showed just how much he meant to the Spartans offense, running for 145 yards and a touchdown and throwing a pass for 29 yards. Michigan State had only 227 yards as a team that game.

With the short shelf life for NFL running backs, Bell needed to go pro now instead of coming back and taking a whole bunch more hits at the college level. His stock likely will never be higher. And at 6-foot-2 and 240 or so pounds, Bell has the size and strength to take on NFL defenders, though he'll have to prove his speed at the NFL combine.

This, plus tight end Dion Sims' decision to skip his senior year, leaves Michigan State without its top two playmakers on offense from 2012, and in case you didn't notice, there weren't many other playmakers on that offense. The Spartans should still have an excellent defense, but its offense has a ton of question marks.

One major question: Who will run the ball? Can Nick Hill, who's at 5-foot-8, 190 pounds, step up and become an every-down running back? He averaged only 2.3 yards per carry this year. Jeremy Langford, who was tried at receiver this year but didn't make much of an impact there, likely will move back to the backfield and is one of the fastest players on the team. Redshirt freshman Nick Tompkins will get a chance to prove himself this spring. Michigan State also has two commitments from running backs, the highest rated being R.J. Shelton.

All the possible successors to Bell are wildly unproven. The battles for both running back and quarterback will be important ones to watch for Michigan State this offseason.