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2016 Fierce 40 Previews: #19 Michigan State

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 2, 2016

#19 Michigan State Spartans

2015 Recap:

A controversial loss against Nebraska during the regular season was the lone loss for Michigan State in the regular season as they won the Big Ten title and faced Alabama in a BCS playoff game. Alabama handed Michigan State a 38-0 drubbing meaning Michigan State saw it's season end in the National Semifinals.


Coaching:
Mark Dantonio has nearly made people in the state of Michigan forget about that Wolverine team (well...no Jim Harbaugh jostled their collective memories...and wait...we haven't seen the Wolverines yet in the countdown...hmmm). Dantonio seems to bring the perfect balance of discipline and knowledge to this team and has been able to guide them through thick and thin. Michigan State football will be relevant for some time with Dantonio at the helm, one of the best coaches at the NCAA level...period.


Offense

Connor Cook was a 3.5 year starter for the Spartans but there is precident for success without him. While Cook missed part of last season with a shoulder injury Tyler O'Donnell came in and led the Spartans to a win over Ohio State. O' Donnell should be the starter this year but that is not set in stone as Damion Terry is still in the running or we could see a two-quarterback system. L.J. Scott and Gerald Holmes are both experienced ball carriers as Michigan State lives off the running game no matter who is the quarterback.
 

Best Draft Prospects: Brian Allen C 2nd Round 2018

                                       R.J. Shelton WR 6th Round 2017.


Defense

The defense was ranked #26 overall last season which is a little low for this unit as over the last five seasons the defense for Michigan State has been as good as any in the nation. The amount of individual talent that has moved on to the NFL has been impressive and that continued with the the departed and undervalud Shilique Calhoun last year. Demetrius Cooper will pick up the slack for Calhoun along the edge but inside is where the real talent lies along the line. Malik McDowell is as talented as any defensive lineman in the country and the defensive tackle has a shot at leaving early and goiong in the first round in 2017. The linebacker position is loaded and its where the Spartans enjoy the most amount of defensive depth. Riley Bullough is back in the middle and his 106 tackles led the squad a season ago. Look for Jon Reschke and Ed Davis to play major roles at linebacker this season. The secondary is all about safeties Demetrious Cox and Montae Nicholson, both of whom could land on the All Big Ten team.

Best Draft Prospects: Malik McDowell DT 1st/2nd Round 2017 (Early Declaration).

                                      Demetrious Cox S 3rd Round 2017.


Special Teams:

Michigan State will bring their kicker and punter back into the fold with Michael Geiger and Jake Hartbarger. Hartbarger had a promising freshman year while Geiger has been erratic but has shown the potential to be an elite weapon. The issue here is kick and punt return coverage. Last season the Spartans surrenderred 3 special teams touchdowns while getting a reprive having 2 called back because of penalties while they themselves had a whopping 0.


Schedule:

This schedule gets real right away with a visit to Notre Dame and then a home game with Wisconsin before the month of September ends. Michigan and Ohio State later in the year are both home games for the Spartans while they close with an away game against Penn State. The Spartans should be in the thick of the race again if the quarterback play holds up.



Draft and Overall Outlook:

It seems like Connor Cook led this team forvever and it will be difficult to watch the Spartans without him under center. there is plenty of big time talent left for Michigan State and Malik McDowell has the ability to go in the top half of the first round and challange for 1st defensive tackle off of the board if he declares this season. Demetrious Cox and Montae Nicholson form would could be the best starting safety duo in the entire country.

 

DJ Boyer