On August 29, the Michigan State Spartans kick off their 2014 season as defending Big Ten champs and Rose Bowl champs. We’re previewing their season with a two part piece. Last week, we talked schedule and results.
Entering the 2014 season, the Michigan State Spartans will lose plenty on defense roster wise, but otherwise look to be in excellent shape, returning the meat and bones of a very stout team on both sides of the ball.
Considering their modest returns early in 2013 and positive growth throughout the season, the opportunity exists for huge strides to be made on offense. The Spartans have had time to jell, and now have the confidence that can only be gained through game experience to rely on. The defense should remain stout, and the offense should have an easier time putting things together early on this year.
What is the outlook for starters and backups position by position? Here’s a look at the roster.
Quarterback: Connor Cook, Damion Terry. Cook and Terry are options 1 and 2 for the Spartans, but it might be closer to 1 and 1A. Had Cook not taken the job with both hands last season, Terry was likely in line to be the starter. Now, Cook has his team behind him entirely and will look to lead the offense. Expect a quietly solid season from the veteran. In the end, Cook might be closer to a Heisman Trophy candidate than Langford, who’s getting a tiny bit of national love.
Wide Receiver: Tony Lippett, Macgarrett Kings Jr., Aaron Burbridge, Monty Madaris, DeAnthony Arnett, Keith Mumphery. A deep group, perhaps the deepest spot on the team. Lippett made fantastic strides in 2013 and looked poised for a breakout season, while Kings, Burbridge and Arnett figure to play solid roles as well, and Mumphery is a senior leader. Watch for more depth Tres Barkdale and A.J. Troup to stand out, as well. Both have been raved about plenty as the offseason has progressed.
Running Back: Jeremy Langford, Delton Williams, Gerald Owens, Nick Hill, Madre London. Langford is the unquestioned leader and starter, but expect the Spartans to have plenty of depth here as well, perhaps using Williams and Owens in a smash mouth role, while Hill is likely the speed man. London, a freshman, could see time here as well, but only if he makes a significant impact.
Tight End: Josiah Price, Jamal Lyles, Andrew Gleichert, Paul Lang, Dylan Chmura. Yet another position with great young depth, Price is the starter after making plenty of great catches last year and stepping in. Lyles is developing as well as a devastating blocker and capable catch, and Gleichert is probably a blocker. Chmura is interesting as a redshirt freshman and the son of former NFL tight end Mark Chmura. Watch for his inclusion at times, given he has been talked up significantly over the past few months. A stacked deck here.
Offensive Line: Jack Conklin, Travis Jackson, Jack Allen, Donovan Clark, Kodi Kieler. All were listed on the first Michigan State depth chart. The beat should go on for Michigan State’s line, which helped pave the way to plenty of success last season. In Kieler’s spot, watch out for Miguel Machado, who has impressed. Also, Brian Allen will back up his brother at center and Brandon Clemons will back up Clark. All told, Michigan State should be deep and strong again. Kieler is the question mark, but has earned the spot.
Cornerback: Trae Waynes, Darian Hicks, Jermaine Edmondson, Arjen Colquhoun. With Darqueze Dennard off to the NFL, many will be concerned about the Spartans’ ability to find a lock down corner. Expect Waynes to take his place almost seamlessly. Hicks will play on the other side, and Colqhoun and Edmondson will also contribute. Michigan State has long
Linebacker: Taiwan Jones, Jon Reschke, Ed Davis, Riley Bullough, Shane Jones. The biggest question on defense will be how Michigan State deals with the departure of Max Bullough, Denicos Allen, a pair of erasers. Jones appears to be a solid option to step up, and Davis saw plenty of snaps last season, which should make his inclusion fairly seamless. Also impressing have been young Reschke and Jones. If all else fails (which realistically, it shouldn’t), the Spartans still have a Bullough to turn to in a reserve role.
Safety: Kurtis Drummond, R.J. Williamson, Demetrious Cox, Mark Meyers. Another stacked position, the Spartans figure to get a big year from Drummond,a fifth year senior, and Williamson. There to push Williamson is Cox, who has been a hard-hitting play machine throughout camp according to most. A strong group will be led by Drummond, the unquestioned leader.
Defensive Line: Shilique Calhoun, Joel Heath, Lawrence Thomas, Marcus Rush. With Calhoun anchoring things, expect the linemen to play a significant role in Michigan State’s success again. Rush isn’t to be discounted on the other side either, and Thomas has taken over a vacancy in the middle along with Heath. Also worth watching? James Kitteridge, who will see time, freshman Malik McDowell and Demetrius Cooper, who could become the next terror off the edge.
Special Teams: Michael Geiger, Mike Sadler. Expect the Spartan special teams to remain elite in 2014. Both Geiger and Sadler were fantastic last season, and Sadler will be punting as a fifth-year senior in the award discussion. Geiger steadied the kicking position, and will only get better as a sophomore.
Overview: There’s no lacking for capable depth and bodies. Michigan State once again looks the a deep, physical team that they have evolved into recently. There’s a few concerns regarding graduation on the defense, but expect newcomers to step in and step up. Offensively, the Spartans could excel instead of struggle, given the confidence gained over the past year. If that happens, something special could be brewing in East Lansing.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax