Originally posted on The Detroit Sports Site  |  Last updated 8/14/13
With kickoff to the 2013 college football season approaching, we’re taking an inside look at the Michigan State Spartans in a two-part season preview. Today, we’re taking a look at each position and analyzing how the Spartans will line up against the competition. The Michigan State Spartans’ major problem wasn’t talent in 2012, but rather, the inability of that talent to gel and meaningfully come together on the field. As a result, the team never took the next step to become great. There were good moments sprinkled in, but nothing consistent developed until the bitter end of the season. That, though, is the one positive fans and coaches alike can build around this season. Towards the end of last year, the young receiving core played much better, the defense continued to dominate and another option at quarterback was discovered. Considering that, there’s enough positive roster elements at play to consider the Spartans a bit more than a simple work in progress for 2013. Quarterback: Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook will get all the headlines, but don’t discount Tyler O’Connor in the competition, either. Talented and highly regarded freshman Damion Terry looks destined for a redshirt, so this competition is likely between three. Michigan State needs much better, more consistent play from the quarterback position in 2013, as that was their major downfall most of last season. Cook sparked the bowl win in Arizona, and based on that and his creativity in the pocket, he should get the first look at starter. Still, Mark Dantonio will probably want a veteran starting, which means you can likely expect Maxwell under center this year. There should be a much shorter leash if he struggles, though. Position Grade: B- Running Back: Gone is LeVeon Bell to the NFL, meaning the Spartans will have to replace perhaps the best workhorse in college football from last season. The bad news is, given Bell’s ubiquitous nature in the offense, duplicating his production won’t be easy. The good news? Michigan State seems to have plenty of diverse options at their disposal, with bruising Riley Bullough, shifty Jeremy Langford and Nick Hill, and tough freshman runners Gerald Holmes and Delton Williams. Count on someone to emerge (possibly Holmes) and play a dual role with someone like Langford. Position Grade: C- Wide Receiver: A bunched, talented group, Michigan State’s wideouts have a chance to be the definite strength of the offense this season. The leader will be dependable senior Bennie Fowler, but sophomore Aaron Burbridge will look to take more steps forward after a fantastic finish and DeAnthony Arnett, who grabbed a touchdown in the spring game, will try to take more steps forward. Count on another sophomore, Macgarett Kings Jr., to make some fast plays in the Keshaun Martin role. Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery, two juniors, should play an important role as well. From size to speed and route running, Michigan State has the bodies to stretch the field. Position Grade: A+ Tight End: Another position that was struck by injury last year, the Spartans lose Dion Sims to the NFL. Andrew Gleichert and Paul Lang, two tight ends who were dinged up last year are healthy now and should be featured. Evan Jones, Michael Dennis and Josiah Price are in the mix, as well, given their varied roles. Both Gleichert and Lang showed potential in flashes last season, but there isn’t a strong, obvious talent like Sims to help buoy the group if either struggle or get hurt again. Position Grade: C Offensive Line: Senior right tackle Fou Fonoti, bursting hair and all, will be the emotional leader of a recharged offensive line that could be better than most people think. Travis Jackson will occupy center, and Dan France is expected to move from left tackle to right guard, where he’ll battling Jack Allen for the starting spot. Jack Conklin and Donavon Clark appear to be competing at left tackle, while dependable Blake Treadwell will be the left guard. It’s a tough group with plenty of size, depth and nasty, and if the ends can hold together, whomever is playing quarterback should have a decent pocket, provided health persists. Position Grade: B Defensive Line: Both William Gholston and Anthony Rashad White are gone, meaning Michigan State will need to replace some beef and pressure up front on defense. Shilique Calhoun, showing strength as a pass rusher, should be able to do that off the edge as a full time starter. Elder statesman Tyler Hoover will help anchor the middle along with James Kittredge and Micajah Reynolds. Mark Scarpinato, though, is pushing Reynolds for a starting spot. Expect Denzel Drone, Lawrence Thomas and perhaps even freshman Demetrius Cooper to see time in spots. Overall, this group is deep and returns most of its strength, but the major issue will be, can the middle of the line pressure the quarterback like they did with Jerel Worthy and make up for the loss of Gholston’s explosive playmaking ability? Position Grade: B+ Linebacker: Another strongpoint of Michigan State’s team, the Spartans return team leader Max Bullough and heavy hitter Denicos Allen, two seniors. Walk on Kyler Elsworth is a play maker and yet another leader, and sophomores Ed Davis and Darien Harris should see time. Others in the mix? Former safety Jarius Jones, junior Taiwan Jones and perhaps even freshmen Jon Reschke and Shane Jones, though most of their time will be spent learning. This group is deep and full of diversified, experienced players. Position Grade: A Cornerback: Michigan State returns top flight corner Darqueze Dennard, who will be one of the best defensive backs in the Big Ten. Replacing Johnny Adams won’t be easy, but young Trae Waynes looks primed to do the job. Behind Waynes, Arjen Colquhoun looks like a lock to be number three, and behind him and players such as Ezra Robinson, Darian Hicks and Jermaine Edmondson and Mylan Hicks will each compete for time. No longer are the Spartans operating from a loss at cornerback. In 2013, this group should be a definite team strength. Position Grade: A- Safety: Go ahead and write Isaiah Lewis and Kurtis Drumond’s names down in ink. Both will be the starters, and each is very strong positionally. If injury strikes, the Spartans have R.J. Williamson and Demetrius Cox waiting in the wings. There’s no mystery here, and that’s good news for the middle of Michigan State’s defense and bad news for the opposition. Position Grade: A Punter/Kicker: Dan Conroy, who was wildly inconsistent in his senior year, is gone. The Spartans will likely replace him with perhaps the nation’s top freshman kicker Michael Geiger. If Geiger struggles, senior Kevin Muma and walk on Kevin Cronin could take over. Mike Sadler is a junior, which means he’ll hold down the punting job for another two years which he has done well his first two on campus. Until the kicking game proves itself, though, this group will be under the most scrutiny. Position Grade: C- Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax
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