EAST LANSING, Mich. Just because you start the season as Michigan States No. 1 running back doesnt mean youre going to finish there.
Thats certainly been the trend of late, and it was one of the messages coach Mark Dantonio sent during a news conference to preview spring practice, which opened Tuesday for the Spartans.
Asked how junior LeVeon Bell is approaching his role as the supposed clear-cut top guy, Dantonio said, I think its important that were not complacent. Thats my answer. OK? Hell be challenged as well.
Bell, who led the team with 948 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns last season, is indeed listed as the No. 1 back on the spring depth chart that was released.
However, he was not one of the 10 players made available for interviews following Tuesdays practice. That might not have been a coincidence considering Dantonios response.
Senior Larry Caper, sophomore Nick Hill and sophomore Jeremy Langford are the top candidates to push Bell for playing time.
Edwin Baker, who gained 1,201 yards in 2011 and 665 yards last season, is no longer with the program. Baker decided to leave school early to pursue a pro career.
Dantonio pointed out that Caper was projected to be the starter in 2010 before an injury in preseason camp moved him back in the pecking order.
Baker then took the lead and was supposed to be the main man going into last season, but his production dropped and Bell emerged.
Now its Bells turn to get the hype. Can he handle it?
Apparently there are some concerns about complacency.
Our running back situation has been a little bit unusual, Dantonio said. Your guess is as good as mine. What youve got to do is youve got to perform on the field and not be complacent. You have to stay healthy and you have to do the job.
I really dont care who plays. It could be 22 (Caper), 24 (Bell). It doesnt make any difference to me. I look for production.
Name to watch
Dantonio gave a glowing report on redshirt freshman Shilique Calhoun, who is listed as a second-string defensive end behind Marcus Rush.
Calhoun, who is 6-foot-4, came in as a freshman last year at 220 pounds and is up to 240, according to the depth chart. He is definitely expected to be part of the playing rotation up front.
Dantonio said Calhoun (Middletown, N.J.) was ready to contribute by the middle of the season last year, but the coaching staff chose to redshirt him.
For the future, its going to be extremely exciting, Dantonio said of that decision. Hes got Julian Peterson-type ability.
Peterson, a former Spartan, was a first-round draft pick, 16th overall, by the San Francisco 49ers in 2000.
I was here when Julian was here, said Dantonio, who was an assistant coach at the time. I recruited Julian. I saw him become a dominant football player here.
(Calhoun) has the ability to make big plays, extremely quick off the edge. Hes got power. Hes a guy I think can be a great football player here.
Tyler Hoover, a converted defensive end, will get the first opportunity to replace Jerel Worthy at defensive tackle.
Worthy is expected to be a first-round draft pick next month after giving up his final year of eligibility.
Hoover, listed at 6-7, 295 pounds, missed most of last season after suffering a fractured rib in the opening game. He will be a fifth-year senior.
Hes big, Dantonio said. Hes got tremendous upside. Well see how he does in there. He can always go out and play defensive end.
The nature of the situation is we want to put our best players on the field all at once. I think he is one of our best 11 (on defense), theres no question. This gives him an opportunity, puts more speed on the field. He knows our defense.
Dantonio said the university has officially petitioned the NCAA to grant receiver DeAnthony Arnett immediate eligibility.
Arnett, a Saginaw native, transferred after playing one season at Tennessee. Players typically must sit out a season after transferring, but Arnett has said he wanted to be closer to home because his father has had serious health problems.
Arnett, who is 5-11, 170 pounds, is listed at third-string to start spring.
He should be a very exciting player, Dantonio said. We will work him as if hes going to be game-ready (eligible).
The petition has gone in. Hopefully, the NCAA sees that (the situation with Arnetts father) and makes decisions based on that. Thats their decision.