2022 NFL Draft: Kenneth Walker III has impressive first start with Michigan State

09/05/2021
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One of the least talked about storylines in all of the Big Ten and possibly, all of college football is how Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker has completely turned around the Spartans roster. Despite losing 27 players to the transfer portal since last November, Tucker and his staff have done a great job keeping it afloat and making the proper additions to the roster.

That includes 18 players from the 2021 recruiting class and impressively, they’ve added 15 scholarship players from the transfer portal since the off-season. One of those additions is running back Kenneth Walker III from Wake Forest. The junior running back is listed at 5-foot-10 and 210-pounds and after just one game with the Spartans, he’s got the town buzzing.

Much of the off-season for the Spartans has been revolved around who the starting quarterback will be. Anthony Russo (transfer from Temple) or Payton Thorne. Against Northwestern, it was Thorne that ran with the first-team offense but it was Kenneth Walker III that made the biggest impact.

From the very first play of the game, Walker took a hand-off and ran 75 yards for a score against Northwestern. He didn’t stop there, either. Compiling 264 rushing yards and four touchdowns, it was an impressive debut. Also, it was much needed for a Michigan State offense that struggled to run the football last year with only two rushing touchdowns through seven games. Looking beyond just the first carry of the game, here are some of the runs from Walker that impressed me the most.

Finding the openingsĀ 

When watching the first run below, you’ll see Walker get square to the middle of the offensive line. In the process, he sees the linebacker approaching the hole and this is where he changes direction and bounces to the outside and gets upfield for a big gain. This vision and patience is impressive and if it wasn’t for the defender making the shoe-string tackle, there’s a chance we’d be talking about this as a touchdown instead.

Moving ahead to the very next run, you’ll see Walker get in the end-zone fairly easy but he still does the work to get in there. As he gets the ball, he runs straight into a defense that’s penetrating the backfield but watch how Walker plants off his right foot and changes direction to a wide open field to his left. Consecutive runs of him showing off the ability to have patience, vision and the ability to change direction.

One-cut and a broken tackleĀ 

During his career with Wake Forest, Walker played in 20 games and had over 1,100 rushing yards on 217 carries. Despite only having 579 rushing yards last season for the Demon Deacons, it’s pretty impressive that 456 of those rushing yards (per PFF) came after contact. After just one game with the Spartans, we now understand.

It’s late in the game but like I said, there was bit of a trend where he was able to bounce runs out towards the sideline and break free from defenders. Looking at the run above, Walker sees the outside clogged with defenders so he cuts inside on the zone run and breaks free from a tackle and gets up the sideline for a massive gain. These are runs that have been limited for the Spartans but it’s starting to look like they have a potential game changer in their backfield.

There’s plenty of football left, we all know that. There will be some stiff competition as the season progresses but after his debut for the Spartans, Kenneth Walker III was impressive. It’s hard to indicate on if a player will enter the NFL Draft or not but he is eligible and with performances like this, Walker could be a name worth watching all season long.

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