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Michigan State RB Connor Heyward opts to exit transfer portal, return to team

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing – Just like that, Michigan State added some experience depth to its backfield.

No, the Spartans didn’t land a transfer. Instead, running back Connor Heyward, who opted to enter the transfer portal in late September, has decided not to transfer after all and will return to Michigan State.

Connor Heyward

Heyward made the announcement on Twitter, saying he had discussed the move with newly hired head coach Mel Tucker as well as athletic director Bill Beekman.

“After talking with Mr. Beekman and Coach Tucker, I have decided to take my name out of the transfer portal and return to Michigan State University,” Heyward wrote. “It has been a long process, but I know this is home in my heart. I’m looking forward to what the future holds, and I can’t wait to get back to work with my brothers. Go Green!”

Heyward entered the 2019 season as the starting tailback, a role he filled in the season-opener against Tulsa. However, by the second week redshirt freshman Elijah Collins got the start and responded with 192 rushing yards, emerging as Michigan State’s No. 1 running back. After Heyward saw his role diminish, he made the choice to enter the portal.

Heyward led Michigan State in rushing in 2018, gaining 529 yards on 118 carries with five touchdowns. He had just 79 yards on 24 carries in 2019.

Since Heyward played only four games in 2019, it can be used as a redshirt season, meaning he’ll still have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Heyward comes back to a running back room that suddenly has started to fill up. Collins is entering his sophomore season and is joined by fellow sophomores Anthony Williams and Brandon Wright, the only scholarship running backs on the roster until Michigan State added three-star recruits Jordon Simmons and Donovan Eaglin.

Tucker, who was named head coach on Feb. 12 to replace Mark Dantonio after 13 seasons, has been busy filling out his coaching staff. He has yet to name a running backs coach but offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic will also serve as running game coordinator.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau