Michigan State star Le’Veon Bell headed to NFL

About the only positive for the this college football season was the play of running back Le’Veon Bell, but it now appears that Sparty will have to replace its workhorse next season with Bell declaring for the NFL draft.

Bell was the focal point of the Spartans’ offense this season, rushing for 1,793 yards and 12 touchdowns. Bell’s 1,960 total yards accounted for 42 percent of Michigan State’s total yards in 2012. The Spartans scored 27 touchdowns in 13 games. Bell was responsible for 13 — 48 percent — of them. To further his importance to the offense, Bell led Michigan State and the nation with 382 carries this season. Nick Hill was second on the team in carries. He had 21 carries. Bell finished his career as one of Michigan State’s all-time leading rushers, ranking sixth on the all-time list with 33 rushing touchdowns and seventh with 3,346 yards.

“He’s all in,” said Bell’s mentor Dennis Toler, adding Bell has an agent. “I talked to Coach D last night, and it’s tough. Obviously, there are pros and cons, but a young man had to make a choice that’s best for him and his family, so that’s the most important thing. Upset’s not a good word to use, but he (Dantonio) was taken aback a little bit. He thought he had a good chance of Le’Veon coming back.”

The 6-foot-2, 237-pound Bell is rated as the No. 2 running back in the draft by ESPN’s Scouts Inc. and the 81st best player overall. Michigan State has been preparing for this scenario. Jeremy Langford, Hill or an incoming freshman likely will take over as the No. 1 rushing option.

“Well, we’ve got two guys coming into this class that we feel really good about,” offensive coordinator Dan Roushar said. “We’ve got a couple guys in Langford and Hill that will have an opportunity to step up.”

Roushar can’t comment specifically on recruits until they sign in February, but MSU’s 2013 class features two running backs, Gerald Holmes of Flint Carman-Ainsworth and R.J. Shelton of Beaver Dam, Wis.

Bell joins fellow Spartan in tight end Dion Sims, who also will enter the draft. Sims, who had 36 catches for 475 yards and two touchdowns as a junior, is rated as the No. 4 tight end by ESPN’s Scouts Inc.

MSU was the Big Ten favorite entering this season but lost several close games to finish the regular season 6-6. The Spartans then beat TCU 17-16 in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.

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