Entering 2012, Mark Dantonio's program faced an age-old question of rebuilding or reloading? Had Michigan State, following the two most successful seasons in program history (11 wins), become a program that reloads or rebuilds? After five losses in Big Ten play, it appears the Spartans are closer to rebuilding than reloading. However, with a host of talent returning to both sides of the ball, Dantonio's bunch won't be "down" for too long. Expectations in East Lansing will be high once again this summer.
Michigan State Spartans 2013 Spring Preview
2012 Record: 7-6 (3-5)
Spring practice dates: March 19-April 20
Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 6
Passing: Andrew Maxwell, 234-of-446, 2,606 yards, 13 TD, 9 INT
Rushing: Nick Hill, 21 car., 48 yards, 1 TDs
Receiving: Bennie Fowler, 41 rec., 524 yards, 4 TDs
Tackles: Max Bullough, 111
Sacks: Denicos Allen, 3.0
Interceptions: Darqueze Dennard, 3.0
Redshirts to Watch: QB Tyler O'Connor, TE Josiah Price, TE Evan Jones, S Demetrious Cox, OL Jack Conklin, LB Riley Bullough, DB Jermaine Edmondson, WR Monty Madaris, RB Nick Tompkins, CB Ezra Robinson
Aug. 30 Western Michigan (Fri.)
Sept. 7 USF
Sept. 14 Youngstown State
Sept. 21 at Notre Dame
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 at Iowa
Oct. 12 Indiana
Oct. 19 Purdue
Oct. 26 at Illinois
Nov. 1 Michigan
Nov. 9 Bye Week
Nov. 16 at Nebraska
Nov. 23 at Northwestern
Nov. 30 Minnesota
Offensive Strength: Offensive line. Dan France, Jack Allen, Skyler Burkland and Blake Treadwell return after making a combined 41 starts a year ago.
Offensive Weakness: Running back. Le'Veon Bell and Larry Caper are gone and the duo combined for 400 carries, 1,901 yards rushing and 12 of the team's 13 touchdowns on the ground.
Defensive Strength: Linebacker. This position has everything any coach could want: experience, talent, versatility, production and depth.
Defensive Weakness: Defensive line. William Gholston and Anthony Rashad-White are gone from this unit as is contributor Tyler Hoover.
Spring Storylines Facing the Spartans:
1. Develop a workhorse. Le'Veon Bell touched the ball 414 times last year on offense — the most of anyone in all of college football. He is gone as is his backup Larry Caper. That leaves Mark Dantonio with a glaring hole in his offense at tailback. Nick Hill and Jeremy Langford return but rushed for a total of 71 yards last season. Redshirt freshman Nick Tompkins, who battled an ankle injury all of last year, will also compete for touches this spring. A host of talented newcomers will join the battle this summer (Gerald Holmes, R.J. Shelton, Delton Williams), but Hill and Langford will have a chance this spring to get a headstart on the competition. Dantonio would feel much better about his running game if one of these players can step up and prove themselves in spring practice.
2. Establish a new identity on offense. New co-offensive coordinators Jim Bollman and Dave Warner take over running the offense for the Spartans. The system will still be a pro-style, power running attack but look for the new architects to add wrinkles. The first decision will be to decide if Andrew Maxwell is the final answer at quarterback. There is plenty of talent behind him with Connor Cook and redshirt freshman Tyler O'Connor pressing for time this spring. Adding an athletic dimension to the quarterback position is something MSU wants to do but Maxwell isn't the guy for that job. It will be interesting to see if Cook and O'Connor can close the gap on the incumbent this spring.
3. Stablize the defensive line. Two very dependable players — William Gholston and Anthony Rashad-White — have left the starting defensive line and Ron Burton will now be in charge of the D-line. So with one of the best back seven's in all of college football, the Spartans' one area of focus on defense this spring has to be the defensive line. Marcus Rush will lock down one defensive end spot while Shlique Calhoun seems like the favorite to replace Gholston. James Kittredge, Denzel Drone, Lawrence Thomas and Micajah Reynolds return with experience and all have the talent to start up front. Organizing this group and settling a rotation will be key in a league based so heavily on running the football.
4. Get the redshirts some reps. Michigan State has the luxury of a deep and talented class of redshirt freshmen to pick from this spring. The aforementioned O'Connor and Tompkins will compete at two key offensive positions but so too will names like safety Demetrious Cox, linebacker Riley Bullough, wide receiver Monty Madaris and cornerback Ezra Robinson. Josiah Price and Evan Jones, a pair of redshirt tight ends, also will be particularly interesting to watch this spring as they battle to replace the departed Dion Sims.
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