Jan. 5, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Over the last 36 hours, three Michigan State juniors - running back Le'Veon Bell, tight end Dion Sims and defensive end William Gholston - announced that they will forgo their senior seasons and enter the 2013 National Football League Draft. Bell and Sims made their decisions public on Thursday, Jan. 3 while Gholston followed suit late Friday. It marks the first time Michigan State has had multiple underclassmen enter the NFL Draft since 1999 (defensive end Dimitrius Underwood and running back Sedrick Irvin).
The deadline for underclassmen to declare themselves eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft is Tuesday, Jan. 15.
A first-team All-Big Ten selection (coaches and media) and Doak Walker Award semifinalist, Bell led the Big Ten and ranked third in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (depending completion of the bowls) in rushing at 137.9 yards per game. Bell rushed 382 times for 1,793 yards and 12 touchdowns. His 1,793 rushing yards ranked fifth in the NCAA FBS and marked the second-highest single-season total in MSU history. He led the NCAA FBS in carries (382) - the third-best single-season total in school history and fourth highest in Big Ten record book. Bell accounted for 92 percent of Michigan State's rushing yards (1,793 of 1,942) and 78 percent of its rushing attempts (382 of 492) in 2012.
A fourth-team All-America selection by Phil Steele and honorable mention All-American by SI.com, Bell was named recipient of the 2012 Elite Running Back Trophy (National Running Back of the Year) by the College Football Performance Awards.
The 6-foot-2, 237-pound Bell was one of just four players in the NCAA FBS to produce three 200-yard rushing games in 2012 (Toledo's David Fluellen, Air Force's Cody Getz, Western Kentucky's Antonio Andrews). He also became only the second Spartan to post three 200-yard rushing games in a season (Lorenzo White: school-record four times in 1985). Bell recorded eight 100-yard rushing games - the second-highest single-season total in MSU history.
According to STATS, Bell gained 922 of his 1,793 rushing yards (51 percent) after contact, which ranked first among all NCAA FBS running backs, and broke 16 tackles. In addition, he produced 82 first downs and 34 runs of 10 or more yards, including 13 gains of 20 or more yards.
Bell ranked second in the Big Ten and 14th in the NCAA FBS in all-purpose yards, averaging 155.7 yards per game. His 2,024 all-purpose yards marked the fourth-highest single-season total in Spartan history. He also ranked among the conference leaders in rushing TDs (tied for fourth with 12) and total offense (10th at 140.2 ypg.). A complete back, his 32 receptions (167 yards) ranked fifth on the team.
The Columbus, Ohio, native produced the top single-game total in the NCAA FBS this season for carries (44 vs. Boise State) and eighth-most rushing yards (266 vs. Minnesota).
"Le'Veon Bell established himself as a running back who could carry the load, as he carried the ball over 380 times this season for us," MSU head coach Mark Dantonio said. "Although he was the Big Ten's leading rusher following the regular season, it was his physical durability that was most impressive.
"As a 20-year-old, Le'Veon faced an extremely difficult decision. While I do believe there was both personal and program value in Le'Veon returning for his senior season, I acknowledge the difficult choice he had to make."
Bell was selected Offensive Player of the Game after accounting for 187 combined yards (rushing, passing and receiving) in the Spartans' 17-16 come-from-behind victory over TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. He carried 32 times for 145 yards against the Horned Frogs, with 107 of those rushing yards coming in the second half including a 4-yard TD run that gave MSU its first lead at 14-13 with 7:00 left in the fourth quarter. His 32 rushing attempts and 145 rushing yards mark the fifth-highest single-game bowl totals in Spartan history. He became the first Spartan back to post a 100-yard rushing game in a bowl since Javon Ringer carried 21 times for 101 yards against Boston College in the 2007 Champs Sports Bowl. Bell also completed a 29-yard pass to TyQuan Hammock to set up MSU's first TD and caught two passes for 13 yards.
"This was the hardest decision of my life," Bell said. "It's difficult to leave my teammates and coaches as well as Spartan Nation, but I couldn't pass on pursuing my dream and the opportunity to change my mom's life.
"I couldn't have written a better script for my final game in a Spartan uniform, coming back from a 13-0 deficit against TCU to win in the final minute. I ran the ball well against a great TCU defense, but the most important thing was getting the `W.' It was exciting to celebrate with my teammates one last time and leave on that note.
"Although I'm leaving, Michigan State still has some capable running backs returning, in Nick Hill and Jeremy Langford. Those guys will be running behind a talented and experienced offensive line. Nick and Jeremy are both tough, talented athletes and their time is now."
During the 2012 regular-season, Bell was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week three times (Aug. 31 vs. Boise State; Sept. 22 vs. Eastern Michigan; Nov. 24 vs. Minnesota).
He rushed 35 times for a career-high 266 yards - the most by a Big Ten player this season - and a TD in MSU's 26-10 win at Minnesota, as the Spartans became bowl eligible for a school record sixth-straight season. Bell was named CFPA National Running Back of the Week and Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week for his career day against the Gophers. His 266 rushing yards are the sixth-highest single-game total in MSU history. Bell carried the ball eight consecutive plays (for 51 yards) and capped off an 11-play, 57-yard drive with an 8-yard TD run midway through the fourth quarter that iced the game for the Spartans. He also ripped off runs of 26, 40 and 30 yards against the Gophers while accounting for a career-best 275 all-purpose yards - the ninth-best single-game total in MSU history.
Bell ran 32 times for 133 yards against Northwestern.
He gained 188 yards on 36 carries and scored two rushing TDs (runs of 11 yards and 1 yard) in MSU's 28-24 loss to No. 21 Nebraska. It marked his third multi-TD game of the season. Bell also broke runs of 23, 40 and 26 yards against the Cornhuskers.
With 77 yards on 21 carries in MSU's 16-13 overtime victory at Wisconsin, he eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing milestone for the first time in his career. Bell became the 13th running back (21 times combined) in Spartan history to record a 1,000-yard rushing season. His first career TD reception came on a 5-yard shovel pass from Andrew Maxwell with 1:08 left in the fourth quarter and sent the game into overtime tied at 10.
Bell carried 29 times for 140 yards and a TD against Iowa. It marked his second-straight 100-yard rushing game against the Hawkeyes (20 rushes for 112 yards in 2011).
He rushed for a game-high 121 rushing yards on 37 attempts in MSU's 31-27 win at Indiana. The 37 carries were the second most in his career (44 vs. Boise State).
Bell set career highs for receptions (8) and receiving yards (58) in a 17-16 loss to Ohio State.
He earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors after rushing for 253 yards (36 carries) and a TD in MSU's 23-7 victory over Eastern Michigan. His 253 yards mark the seventh-highest single-game rushing total in school history.
Bell scored on first-half TD runs of 1 and 7 yards as MSU rolled to a 24-0 halftime lead en route to a 41-7 win at Central Michigan.
He was named CBSSports.com's Heisman Player of the Week and Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 210 yards on a career-best 44 carries in MSU's 17-13 victory over No. 24 Boise State in the season opener. Bell outgained the entire Boise State offense, 210-206, and 84 of his 210 yards came after contact. His 210 rushing yards also were the most by a Big Ten running back in a season opener since Purdue's Ralph Bolden in 2009 (234 vs. Toledo) and the most by a Spartan in an opener since T.J. Duckett in 2000 (219 vs. Marshall). He also had six catches for 55 yards against the Broncos.
Michigan State went 18-3 (.857) when Bell scored at least one rushing TD (2010: 5-0; 2011: 7-1; and 2012: 6-2).
Bell rushed for 3,346 yards and 33 TDs in 40 career games. He finished his career ranked among MSU's all-time leaders in rushing TDs (sixth with 33), rushing attempts (sixth with 671), rushing yards (seventh with 3,346) and all-purpose yards (ninth with 4,114). Bell had 12 career 100-yard rushing games, which is eighth most in MSU history. Bell also had 78 career receptions for 531 yards (6.8 avg.) and one score.
Sims tied for third on the team with 36 receptions for 475 yards (13.2 avg.) and two scores. His 36 catches and 475 receiving yards both represent career highs (previous highs: 12 catches in 2011 and 133 receiving yards in 2009). His 36 receptions are tied for the third-highest single-season total by a Spartan tight end, trailing only Chris Baker who had 40 catches in 2001 and 38 in 1999.
Twenty-nine of his 36 receptions (81 percent) resulted in either a first down or a touchdown.
"Despite missing nearly three full games (with an ankle injury), Dion Sims still earned second-team All-Big Ten honors, so that says something about his production," Dantonio said. "He's a big target with great hands. With his combination of size and power, Dion is difficult to bring down, so he gains a lot of yards after the catch. He's also a much improved run-blocker.
"Although we'll miss Dion in our offense next season, he felt the timing was right and we wish him all the best in his future. Since returning to Michigan State, our offensive system has helped develop two tight ends that are currently playing in the NFL, in Kellen Davis (Chicago Bears) and Garrett Celek (San Francisco 49ers), so there's a proven track record of our players having success at his position at the next level."
"After talking things over with my family and some of my teammates, I decided the timing was right to make the move because I believe that I'm ready to play at the next level," Sims said.
"I think I can impress the pro scouts with my end-line blocking and provide a big target over the middle. With my size and athleticism, I can create mismatches in the passing game against linebackers and safeties.
"Coach Dantonio has built a great football program at Michigan State. He is a great coach and an even better person. Coach D has a solid nucleus of players returning, plus he'll bring in a talented recruiting class. He also has surrounded himself with great coaches and they'll develop a plan to get the job done next season."
He had three catches for 24 yards against TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, including his 14-yard reception from Connor Cook on MSU's final scoring drive that helped set up Dan Conroy's 47-yard game-winning field goal.
Sims posted his second 100-yard receiving game of the season (and his career), with five grabs for 102 yards against Northwestern. He had a career-long 44-yard reception from Maxwell on MSU's second offensive series.
Through the first five games of the 2012 season, Sims led the Spartans in catches (24), receiving yards (313) and TD receptions (2). He sat out entire Iowa game and played only nine snaps at Michigan after suffering an ankle injury early in the first quarter of MSU's Oct. 6 game at Indiana.
The 6-foot-5, 285-pound Sims was named a Fourth-Team Midseason All-American by Phil Steele.
Sims was selected John Mackey and College Football Performance Awards' National Tight End of the Week after recording his first career 100-yard receiving game with six receptions for 112 yards and a score against Eastern Michigan. He had three catches for 73 yards in the fourth quarter, including a 10-yard TD grab from Maxwell that gave MSU a 16-7 lead.
The Detroit, Mich., native had a team-high six catches for 52 yards against No. 20 Notre Dame. Sims caught three passes for 48 yards at Central Michigan, including a 20-yard TD reception from Maxwell late in the second quarter. He recorded a career-best seven receptions for 65 yards in the season opener against No. 24 Boise State.
Sims had 59 receptions for 707 yards (12.0 avg.) and eight TDs in 39 career games, including 13 starts.
Gholston earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the media for a second-straight year after leading the Spartans in tackles for loss (13 for 49 yards), sacks (4.5 for 24 yards) and pass break-ups (10). Gholston also ranked among the Big Ten leaders in tackles for loss (eighth at 1.0 per game), pass break-ups (tied for 10th) and sacks (tied for 18th at 0.35 per game).
Gholston led the Spartan defensive linemen and finished fourth overall in tackles with 59. His 10 pass break-ups ranked first among NCAA FBS defensive linemen. He recorded at least one tackle for loss in nine of MSU's 13 games. His 177 production points ranked third on the team during the regular season.
Gholston was named Defensive Player of the Game after recording a season-high nine tackles, including a 5-yard sack, in MSU's one-point win over TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. MSU's defense limited the Horned Frogs to five first downs and 84 total yards in the second half (27 plays; 3.1 yards per play). The Spartans didn't allow any third-down conversions in the second half (0-for-7) and forced TCU to go three-and-out on 4-of-8 second-half possessions.
"Will Gholston anchored a defense line that helped Michigan State rank No. 1 in the Big Ten in rush defense, total defense and scoring defense and finished among the nation's Top 10 in all those categories," Dantonio said. "He's an active player, who consistently added a physical presence at the point of attack. Without question, Will played one of his best games of the season against TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl while earning Defensive MVP honors.
"Will is an extremely caring person and had a very tough time personally making this decision. When he made the commitment to first become a Spartan, he never wavered throughout the (recruiting) process. For that, I will be forever grateful and stand beside him throughout his life. We will miss Will as both a player and person as he moves into this next phase of his life. We wish him great success."
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone associated with Michigan State University, its athletic department as well as its football program for their endless support and commitment to me as a student-athlete," Gholston said in an open letter.
"For the past three years I have made East Lansing my home and I have created friendships and memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I am so grateful and fortunate to even be in the position that I am today and I know none of this would even be possible without the help and support of Spartan Nation.
"In the days since our Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl victory, I have decided to forgo my senior year at Michigan State and declare for the 2013 NFL Draft. While I know I still have a great deal to accomplish, I am very excited about the challenges that the future holds and I promise to always represent the University with class, dignity, and professionalism.
"From Coach Dantonio, to our entire staff, to my incredible teammates, to each of you unbelievable fans that back us each and every day, I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart."
The Detroit, Mich., native posted six tackles against Northwestern. His half sack (combined with junior linebacker Max Bullough) against Kain Colter resulted in a 1-yard loss and a safety in the first quarter.
He contributed five tackles, including one for a 2-yard loss, and a career-best two pass break-ups against No. 21 Nebraska.
The 6-foot-7, 278-pound Gholston was named the College Football Performance Awards National Defensive Lineman of the Week after tallying a season-best 4.5 tackles for loss (10 yards) in Michigan State's 16-13 overtime win at Wisconsin. His 4.5 tackles for loss were the second most by a Big Ten player in a single game this season and rank eighth most by a Spartan defender in a single game. He totaled a career-best 36 production points against the Badgers (previous high: 34 production points vs. Ohio State, 2011).
Gholston collected 142 tackles, including 30 for losses (102 yards) and 10 sacks (56 yards), in 36 career games. His 30 tackles for loss rank 10th in school history.
Despite the loss of four starters (nose tackle Anthony Rashad White, linebacker Chris Norman and cornerback Johnny Adams), Gholston expects the Spartans to once again rank among the nation's best defensive units.
"Michigan State will have a great defense again next year," he said. "There are always personnel losses, like when Greg Jones and Jerel Worthy left, but there's a strong nucleus of veteran players returning along with some talented young players.
"The defense line has plenty of young talent, with guys like Shilique Calhoun, Lawrence Thomas, Joel Heath and Damon Knox. An experienced linebacker unit returns, plus almost the entire secondary. Guys have always stepped up when presented an opportunity and next fall won't be any different."
In two postseason bowl appearances (2012 Outback Bowl vs. Georgia and 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl vs. TCU), Gholston produced 16 total tackles, with six resulting in losses (21 yards) including three sacks (15 yards). He also recorded two pass break-ups and returned a fumble 6 yards. Gholston sat out the 2011 Capital One Bowl against Alabama with a shoulder injury.
"I performed at a high level in those bowls because I had almost a month to focus and prepare for those games," Gholston said. "During the regular season, it's really a balancing act for a student-athlete and your focus is divided. It's really a challenge to manage the classwork and football."