2022 NFL Draft: Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III Says He Will Retire From Peach Bowl Against Pitt
2021 produced a magical 10-game winning season for Michigan State, but the Spartans will be deprived of their biggest star when they face Pittsburgh at the Peach Bowl on December 30. Running back Kenneth Walker announced on Twitter that he would skip the bowl game and declare for the 2022 NFL Draft.
“It was a real honor to represent Michigan State University and to wear green and white,” Walker wrote. “I am more than grateful to the coach [Mel] Tucker and all the staff for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to shine under their leadership. “
Walker, a never-before-seen transfer from Wake Forest, finished the season with 1,636 rushing yards – good for No.2 nationally – 18 rushing touchdowns and averaging 6.22 yards per carry for a Spartans team who was at the heart of college football. Elimination race until the end of November. His best game came on October 30 when he scored five rushing touchdowns in a spectacular 37-33 against rival Michigan. He finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy vote and received 18 first place votes.
“I would like to thank God, my family, the fans of my teammates and all of my coaches over the years for helping me become the player and the man I am today,” he wrote. “I’ll be a Spartan guy forever.”
Michigan State and Pitt will play on December 30 at 7 p.m. ET at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Knock while the iron is hot
It’s great to see a college football player living his dream. This is exactly what Walker does. He was an unknown heading into the 2021 season, but played his part in a top draft pick. Walker is the fourth running back prospect in the latest CBS Sports NFL Draft prospect ranking behind only Isaiah Spiller, Breece Hall and Kyren Williams. It’s an impressive company for the 5-foot-10, 210-pounder from Arlington, TX.
Walker’s rise to stardom has opened the eyes of NFL scouts who see him as a well-rounded back who can withstand punishment between tackles, but is also dangerous enough in space to be used in a variety of ways. . While he wasn’t widely used as a wide receiver in 2021 – he made 13 catches for 89 yards and one touchdown – that part of his game takes place in his wheelhouse.
Successful transfer portal
The transfer portal is the population of a mid-sized city at this point, and it has become one of the most polarizing topics in American sport. Whichever side of the debate you land on, it’s easy to name Walker as a portal achievement. He totaled 579 rushing yards in each of his two seasons at Wake Forest and may have shared his runs with Christian Beal-Smith in 2021.
He found greener pastures (pun intended) in East Lansing, which was clearly a better place to showcase his skills as a one-cut north-south runner.
Will all players in the Transfer Portal have the same kind of success? Of course not. In fact, the majority could be forgotten in the end. But it’s refreshing to see Walker’s decision pay off for him personally without impacting his former team, who played their part in the ACC Championship game before losing to Pitt.
What about the boules game?
There is still one game left for the Spartans and Walker’s decision impacted a click offense when running play is established. Can he establish it with him? There is no experienced option behind him who has taken charge this year.
Jordon Simmons is the best running back behind Walker, but he’s only had 255 yards this season. Additionally, 121 of those yards came in Week 2 against Youngstown State. Simmons may be able to take the pressure of the Peach Bowl, but he hasn’t had a chance to prove it yet. This is concerning given that Pitt will try to make it a shootout with Kenny Pickett separating the porous pass defense from the Spartans. And as the Panthers defense showed in the ACC Championship game against Wake Forest, she is capable of winning ahead in the trenches.
The Spartans are currently 1.5 point favorites. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see that line shift now that Walker’s intentions are known.