The Spartans have their sights set on winning the conference outright.
By: Athlon Sports | 5/5/11, 7:00 AM EDT
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#22 Michigan St
Big Ten Legends PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Mark Dantonio,, 33–19 (4 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Dan Roushar | DEF. COORDINATOR: Pat Narduzzi
Kirk Cousins, honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2010, will be one of the best pocket-passing quarterbacks in the country. Cousins throws downfield effectively and is a superb leader as a third-year captain.
Edwin Baker is the Big Ten’s leading returning rusher among running backs. He ran harder and with improved vision in the spring. He is a difference-maker. Bruising Le’Veon Bell added leg strength and is seeking improved durability after rushing for 605 yards as a true freshman in 2010. Few programs have as talented a third-string running back as Larry Caper.The Spartans are stacked at wide receiver. Consistent, clutch split end B.J. Cunningham needs 10 catches to become Michigan State’s all-time leader in receptions. His more explosive counterpart Keshawn Martin is among the Big Ten’s best in all-purpose yardage. Big-bodied, athletic Bennie Fowler is a star on the rise.
Michigan State must replace starters at center and both offensive tackle positions, but will fill those slots with upgraded talent and athleticism at each position. Left guard Joel Foreman and right guard Chris McDonald are sturdy and battle-tested. Overall physicality is not yet up to coach Mark Dantonio’s expectations. Questions at left tackle, where gifted defensive line transplant Dan France is the likely starter, will determine how good this offense can be.
Is Michigan State a true contender in the Big Ten, or will the Spartans fail to live up to expectations like they have in the past?
Michigan State will have its strongest defensive line interior of the Dantonio era, led by junior Jerel Worthy, who was honorable mention all-conference in 2010. Tall defensive ends William Gholston and Tyler Hoover bothered Cousins’ vision in the spring. Gholston has star potential.
Coaches are challenging sophomore middle linebacker Max Bullough to eventually be better than two-time All-America Greg Jones. Bullough is more of an inside banger and film rat, but not quite as quick as Jones. Chris Norman is long, strong and poised for a breakthrough as a second-year starter, moving to the strong side.
In the secondary, two good starters return and two promising replacements are stepping in. Second-team All-Big Ten safety Trenton Robinson provides quality in all categories as the new leader of the unit. Field cornerback Johnny Adams is fearless and sticky. Sophomore strong safety Isaiah Lewis is a punishing hitter and more talented than his predecessor. If the talented new faces can continue State’s recent trend of same-page accountability in the back row, the Spartan defense will be stout.
Kirk Cousins, QB Has the arm and accuracy to zip the 20-yard out, and the guts to play through pain and inspire teammates.
Edwin Baker, RB May emerge as the best running back in the Big Ten.
Jerel Worthy, DT Needs to be less of a teddy bear and more of a grizzly if he wants to go from good to great.
|Sept. 3rd||Youngstown State|
|Sept. 10th||Florida Atlantic|
|Sept. 17th||at Notre Dame|
|Sept. 24th||Central Michigan|
|Oct. 1st||at Ohio State|
|Oct. 29th||at Nebraska|
|Nov. 12th||at Iowa|
|Nov. 26th||at Northwestern|
Kicker Dan Conroy was 14-of-15 in 2010 with a long of 50. Redshirt freshman punter Mike Sadler looks promising as the replacement for dynamic Aaron Bates. Martin is a quality return man, and the Spartans’ coverage units are improving as Dantonio’s roster continues to fill out and mature.
Michigan State may be as good, or possibly better, than a year ago, but will have trouble approaching last year’s shiny 11–2 record. Ohio State and Nebraska are now on the schedule, and both games are on the road. The Spartans must also travel to Notre Dame and Iowa.
Michigan State may not have an equal in the Big Ten at the offensive skill positions. Coaches expect the offensive line to get squared away by September, but it won’t be an area of strength. How well that unit comes along will determine whether Michigan State can make another run at double-digit wins.