After a 2013 season for the ages, the Michigan State Spartans are ready to defend their BIG conference championship. The defense needs to rebuild after losing 5 starters including the 12th pick in the NFL draft Darquez Dennard.
Over the years, Coach Mark Dantonio has done a great job managing recruiting. Every couple of years, one side of the ball is experienced and ready to lead the team. In 2011 it was the offense; in 2013 it was the defense. This year it’s the offenses turn.
All skill position players, except leading receiver Bennie Fowler, return for offensive coordinator Jim Bollman. QB Connor Cook became a real leader in the mold of Kirk Cousins. His backups Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry are inexperienced, but very skilled.
Wide receiver may be the deepest position on the team. RJ Shelton moves over from running back to take Bennie Fowlers starting spot while contributors Tony Lippett, MacGarret Kings, Keith Mumphery and Aaron Burbridge all return. To give you an idea how deep they are, highly touted Saginaw native and Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett is a third stringer. Who saw that coming a year ago? Beastly sophomore Josiah Price returns at tight end and he’s being challenged by Jamal Lyles.
Running back Jeremy Langford is preseason second team all-conference and full back Trevon Pendelton looks to smash some skulls leading the way. Backups Nick Hill and Delton Williams will look to take some of the load off Langford’s shoulders this year.
The offensive line is led by three former Freshman All Americans left tackle Jack Conklin, center Jack Allen and Travis Jackson. Clearly State does a great job coaching and recruiting offensive lineman so fans shouldn’t be concerned about new starters Donavon Clark and Kodi Kieler. They both have plenty of experience with all of the injuries that the o-line suffered last year.
Shilique Calhoun is back and poised for a monster season after recording 7.5 sacks in 2013. Senior Marcus Rush also returns creating the baddest duo of defensive ends in the BIG.
The interior d-line loses starters Tyler Hoover and Micajah Reynolds, but highly touted Lawrence Thomas steps in. Coaches have suggested he has the potential to be the Spartans biggest impact player at d-tackle since Jerel Worthy. State fans also want to get familiar with stud freshman Malik McDowell who is Thomas’ backup. Joel Heath will man the other spot and he’ll battle it out with Damon Knox when Knox returns from injury.
Taiwan Jones moves to MIKE linebacker as he is the only returning starter. Ed Davis will take over at SAM backer while Darien Harris and former defensive back Mylan Hicks split time at the ‘STAR’ position. Playing time will depend on the situation as Hicks will see more time against spread offenses.
Cornerback Trae Waynes and safety Kurtis Drummond return to lead the No Fly Zone. Both are first team all-conference talent. RJ Williamson played plenty last year, racking up 44 tackles. It should be a smooth transition as he steps in for Isiah Lewis at safety. Each season it seems a new secondary player steps up in a big way. Is it CB Darian Hicks’ turn? Reports from fall camp suggest so.
The Spartans feature the best special teams in the conference returning both Kicker Michael Geiger and Punter Mike Sadler. The always exciting Macgarret Kings returns as punt returner and RJ Shelton and Nick Hill will return kicks.
MSU fans should be real excited about this season. They absolutely have the talent to defend their conference title and get to the first college football playoff. What do you think? Who did we leave out? Who is going to step up big this year? Let’s hear it!