Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Ohio State's Beanie Wells will garner the Heisman hype, but there's more than one notable running back in the Big Ten. Javon Ringer comes off a breakout junior season in which he rushed for 1,447 yards and matched Wells' yards-per-carry average (5.9). After sitting out spring ball with a surgically repaired shoulder, Ringer is ready to help Michigan State gain league-wide respect -- and, in the process, get some for himself.
I caught up with Ringer last week, and here's what he had to say.
First off, how's the shoulder?
Javon Ringer: It feels great. My shoulder was feeling really good when spring started, but talking to our athletic trainers and everything, they basically came to a conclusion. Even though it was feeling good, I still didn't need to be out there hitting. I just did all the drills and everything. I haven't hit since the bowl game, so I'm looking forward to camp.
How much did it bother you during the season?
JR: It never bothered me during practice or in a game. I don't even know how it happened. Just one day, I started to bench [press] and it was just sore. I'm thinking it was maybe a game. It was just hurting me one day in the weight room. The only reason we didn't really go into depth about what it was during the season was because it never bothered me. It didn't hurt me to block, it didn't hurt me to hit somebody, it didn't hurt me to carry the ball at all. It never affected my play.
I know Beanie gets a lot of attention in the league, but your numbers weren't that far off from his last year. Do people overlook some of the other backs in the league?
JR: Beanie Wells, man, he's a really, really talented running back. I enjoy watching him play. But as a competitor, there's no way you're going to hear me say, 'Aw, yeah, that guy's just so much better than I am.' No, I will not say that at all. Of course, that man is a really good running back. The main difference you would have to say between us two would be our offensive lines. His offensive line did a tremendous job for him last year, as well as mine did, but I feel that I'm just as good as Chris Wells, if not better. There is more than just one good running back in the Big Ten. He's not the only one. I feel like I am, too. I also feel like those running backs at Wisconsin. They've got a group of great running backs. The Big Ten is full of talented running backs. It's not just Chris Wells.
You played with Jehuu Caulcrick for your first three years. I'm sure it'll be nice to get some of those touchdowns for yourself, but what will life be like without Jehuu in the backfield?
JR: A little bit more of the workload will be put on my shoulders in the running game. We still do have other capable backs, but honestly, realistically, it's not the same. Me and Jehuu were two different types of running backs, so it was good that we could rotate in there, just switch it up every time. It's a little different now.
Getting a chance to watch some of the other backs this spring, who stood out to you?
JR: Honestly, all three of them. A.J. Jimmerson looked good, Andre Anderson looked really good and so did Ashton [Leggett]. Right now, I still don't think we know who my backup is, so that's something they're still going to be fighting for come summer.
Last year at Big Ten media days, you and Coach Dantonio both talked about getting the respect back for Michigan State. Have you seen that happen?
JR: Definitely. Throughout this past year, we fought hard in every single game. We never lost a game by more than a touchdown. Even when we didn't win, we still were so close. A couple plays here or there. Previously, we felt like our fans would be upset because some games we would just get blown out once things just weren't going right. But with this coaching staff and our team, we're all about gaining the respect back. Even if things go wrong, keep playing, keep fighting. We showed that last year, and I feel like our fans appreciate that more.
How have you seen that translate from fans?
JR: You can tell how they're behind us, they're really proud of us, just with our effort and how we're fighting. Us as a team, we're thankful for that. We're not satisfied with last year at all. We still feel like we still have a lot more to achieve and a lot more things to do. We still want more. But our fans respect us a lot more seeing the fight that we had. That's something we need to continue.