East Lansing — While there is no doubt the running back battle at Michigan State will continue well into preseason camp, Saturday's spring game offered the first glimpse at two of the players who will be in the thick of the competition.
Sophomore Gerald Holmes, the only current back with any experience, has been splitting the first-team reps all spring with redshirt freshman Madre London. On Saturday, Holmes played for the victorious White team while London carried the load for the Green.
Each had their moments and drew the attention of coach Mark Dantonio.
"I was impressed with Gerald Holmes' ability to tough it out," Dantonio said. "He got some tough yards, very tough yards. I thought he ran pretty effectively. Madre London had the big run and showed some good speed. He played like a freshman a little bit in there at times, but he's going to be an exciting back to watch as we go forward."
London had the more impressive numbers, carrying nine times for 70 yards, but his total was aided by a 50-yard run in the second half.
Holmes showed toughness and hopes to build off the minimal work he got last season playing behind the likes of Jeremy Langford, Nick Hill and Delton Williams.
"I felt pretty good," Holmes said. "I ran more patient, more confident. I wasn't thinking a whole lot and trying to hit my hole, make my read and just run hard."
London was redshirted last season and has worked this spring on his pass blocking and understanding the playbook.
But it took just one play for him to flash the ability Spartans fans have heard about when he turned a broken play into a 50-yard gain.
"I was being patient and letting the game come to me," London said. "As you can see, it didn't come when I was supposed to score the touchdown. I just want to thank my O-line for blocking me, and Josiah (Price) for coming through also. I was just surprised that I broke because it was a busted play and it was all crowded. Next thing you know, I was in open space."
He also heard from his teammates for getting caught from behind.
"We were having fun out there," London said. "There was a lot of trash talking, so it was all good."
Holmes and London will continue to fight for the top spot this fall when they are joined by incoming freshman L.J. Scott. But they both took a solid first step on Saturday.
"From my standpoint, I was pleased," said linebackers coach Mark Snyder, who was head coach for the Green team. "I thought they ran hard today; kept their legs churning. We talk to our guys about drive for 5 and at times they were winning those battles. I thought both those kids ran the ball tough today from what I saw."