Thanks to our affiliation with SB Nation, we have access to hundreds of other experts that cover both the NFL and college football.
This series of Five Questions With... will focus on not only the 2015 draft class for the Chicago Bears, but some of the undrafted free agents as well. This series of articles has become one of my favorites to do here at Windy City Gridiron, as I feel it gives us an added insight to the new players on the Bears.
Next up is our Q&A with Joe Tuohey of The Only Colors, the SB Nation site that covers the Michigan State Spartans, about the Bears' 4th round draft pick, running back Jeremy Langford.
Windy City Gridiron - After being a highly touted running back coming out of high school (Michigan's #5 senior according to the Detroit Free Press and a top 100 back according to Scout.com), the Spartans moved Langford to cornerback, then to wide receiver then back to running back. Was this because he was struggling with running on the college level or was Michigan State simply loaded at running back and wanted to get him involved?
The Only Colors - Well, first I wouldn't call Jeremy a "highly touted running back" coming out of high school. He was an athlete per most services, and he only had four scholarship offers at the FBS level: MSU, Colorado, Bowling Green, and Eastern Michigan.
When Jeremy got to MSU, there was a logjam at the running back position with future NFL guys in Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell. As is common with Mark Dantonio, Jeremy got moved around to where he might get on the field; he played at corner and on special teams, making an impact in both of those places (more on this in a minute).
Jeremy quickly took over the void left by Le'Veon Bell in 2013, and never looked back.
WCG - Scouting reports about his pass protection seem to be all over the place, what are your opinions on Langford's ability to pass protect?
TOC - Per Football Outsiders, MSU was top-20 nationally in sack rates given up both on standard and passing downs. There are a lot of elements that go into sack rates, including offensive line quality, play calling, and a quarterback's ability to evade pressure. But one element is certainly the running back's ability to pass protect, and in my opinion Jeremy was very solid in this area. The ability to pass protect is a prerequisite for playing time under Mark Dantonio, which should tell you something as well.
WCG - Scouts also differ on his toughness, NFL.com flat out says he's not a physical runner while CBSSports.com says he has a "hard-nosed, no-nonsense style of running the ball," and gets stronger as the game wears on. So what have you noticed during his Spartan career?
TOC - The thing about Jeremy that stood out to me was always his patience when finding a hole. Jeremy does a great job of letting the play develop and then accelerating through the hole quickly. Jeremy also does a nice job of falling forward when he's going down; between these two things, he got stopped for a loss very infrequently.
That said, Jeremy's not the kind of running back who is going to run over guys. It's odd to say that to some degree, given that in 2013 Jeremy gained 725 of his 1,338 rushing yards (54 percent) after contact during the regular season (this was second in the nation).
Mostly, Jeremy got stronger over the course of games. In 2013, it was remarkable the number of times Jeremy salted a game away for MSU with a long touchdown run, including in the Big Ten Championship game against Ohio State.
WCG - As a back up running back, Langford will be expected to play on the special teams, was that something he did much of during his 4 years?
TOC - Yes, Jeremy absolutely made an impact on special teams during his MSU career. Special teams are always an area of emphasis for MSU, and the fact that Jeremy got run on special teams early in his career was (and is) a good sign. In 2011, Jeremy had two fumble recoveries, one while playing special teams and one on defense that he returned for a touchdown. He also played on special teams quite a bit in 2012. Jeremy's absolutely versatile enough to make an impact immediately on special teams.
WCG - ESPN's Todd McShay loved the value the Bears' got by taking Langford in the 4th round, calling him a future starter, do you share his optimism about Langford in the NFL?
TOC - Having watched NFL guys like Javon Ringer, Edwin Baker, and Le'Veon Bell develop at MSU, I absolutely agree that Langford is starter-quality in the NFL. He's well-rounded, and showed marked improvement over the course of two years. I have a lot of confidence in Jeremy's ability to continue to get better at the next level.
Thanks to Joe Tuohey for giving us some details on Langford's time at Michigan State!