The Michigan State Spartans opened spring practice this week, just a couple of months after wrapping up an impressive 10-win season.
Head coach Mark Dantonio and his staff return a talented group of players from the 2017 campaign, and all signs point to the Spartans being serious contenders for the Big Ten East crown this fall. It all starts with the work they put in during these spring sessions.
5 Storylines to Watch During Michigan State's Spring Practice
1. Growth and change on the offensive line
The Spartans lost one of the best centers in the country to graduation in Brian Allen. It looks like his younger brother, Matt, will step in to fill that void. Outside of Brian Allen, Michigan State was fairly young on the offensive line in 2017. That youth showed up in key moments when the unit was outplayed by more seasoned, physical defensive fronts. Matt Allen needs to emerge from the spring as the vocal leader of what should be an improved unit.
2. Depth at running back
LJ Scott returns as the workhorse for the Spartans. He is one of the very best ball carriers in the Big Ten and will be a huge factor in how far Michigan State goes in 2018. That said, there is very little proven depth behind him. You'll likely see Scott cruise through the spring while a couple of returning backs (Connor Heyward and Weston Bridges) split the lion's share of the reps.
3. Who can complement Felton Davis III at receiver?
Davis broke out in 2017 and finished the season as Michigan State's leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. Somebody else is going to need to step up and take some attention off of quarterback Brian Lewerke's favorite target. The transfer of Hunter Rison thinned the herd in that regard. Look for Darrell Stewart Jr. to get plenty of targets in the spring, while freshman Javez Alexander inserts himself into the mix.
4. How good can this secondary be?
The Spartans return one of the more seasoned defensive back groups in the Big Ten. Justin Layne and Josiah Scott are a formidable duo at corner, and they're backed by two very good safeties in Khari WIllis and David Dowell. When you factor in the rest of the depth — along with freshman talent Kalon Gervin — the Michigan State secondary is probably the strongest position group on the team. The Spartans may go as far as this unit takes them.
5. Brian Lewerke's continued development
Lewerke emerged as a bit of a dual threat at the quarterback position in 2017. It's great to have a quarterback that can scramble, but Lewerke needs to work on being able to push the ball down the field through the air better while also improving his accuracy. Watch for the Spartan coaching staff to work on keeping Lewerke in the pocket — at least in the spring — in order to help improve him as a passer.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo!, SBNation and Bleacher Report. He has covered the Big Ten Conference extensively throughout his career. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.