Just because there was a change at head coach for the Michigan State football team doesn’t mean there will be a position change for one player. Probably. Maybe.
In September of last year, running back Connor Heyward took the first step in leaving the Michigan State football team by entering his name into the NCAA transfer database. A little over four months later, after Mark Dantonio‘s abrupt retirement and Mel Tucker took over in East Lansing, Heyward reversed course and pulled his name out of the portal.
Wednesday, new offensive coordinator Jay Johnson indicated that, with Heyward’s return, he’ll also return to the backfield. For now, at least.
“Right now my intent is Connor to be a running back unless it would tell me different at a later date,” the Michigan State football assistant said via the Detroit Free Press. “But certainly going into this, we’re glad that he’s back and I anticipate him being a running back.”
A three-star member of Michigan State’s 2017 recruiting class, Heyward was rated as the No. 72 player regardless of position in the state of Georgia. In 2018, Heyward led MSU in rushing yards (529), rushing touchdowns (five), carries (118), all-purpose yards (1,065) and kick returns (13 for 287 yards; 22.1 avg.). That year, he was named as a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award, given annually to the nation’s most versatile player.
This past season, Heyward ran for 79 yards on 24 carries. He played in the first four games before entering the portal, which allows him to take a redshirt.
All told, Heyward has ran for 618 yards and five touchdowns on 145 carries. He’s also caught 43 passes for another 314 yards and two touchdowns.
While Heyward won’t be switching positions, Julian Barnett could. As a true freshman wide receiver last season, Barnett caught 13 passes for 182. According to new defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton, though, Barnett “has been in our rooms now playing some corner, doing some of that stuff, getting trained that way.”
The final decision on where Barnett ultimately lines up will be Tucker’s call, Johnson said.