Mark Dantonio and the Michigan State Spartans Enter the Season with NFL Talent that will Sit the Bench


As Mark Dantonio surveys his team he is nothing, but smiles.  Photo courtesy of Bill Marklevits.
As Mark Dantonio surveys his team he is nothing, but smiles. Photo courtesy of Bill Marklevits.


The Spartans find themselves in a unique position heading into fall camp. The talent on this 2011 roster is deep. The talent is abundant. Frankly speaking, it is hard to find a hole at any position… and most of them are stacked 2-3 deep.

This is the theme that championships are built on. Want to know where MSU will be come November 1st. Take a look at the players listed at second string. You’ll quickly find your answer. Depth and experience wins championships.

When this staff arrived, they were patching the damn with bubble gum. There wasn’t a ton to work with, especially on defense.  They methodically went to work and found guys that could compete at the Big Ten level.  They plugged them in, often times before they matured and fully understood what they needed to do in order to play fast and react to the ball.  They made tough decisions to redshirt kids that could have helped them win games two years ago. Today those redshirts and the talent that has followed in the subsequent recruiting classes are about to pay dividends.

Michigan State will have the most explosive offense in the Big Ten Conference. Much was made about the loss of talent on the offensive line during spring ball.  Those that don’t really know the roster would reach that conclusion. Personally, I expect MSU’s offensive line to be markedly better than last year’s. I think we have the potential to run it on anyone. With the weapons Kirk has in the backfield and the weapons he has on the perimeter, State will be almost impossible to stop.

Talent is truly measured at the collegiate level by looking ahead at the players that have the potential to play in the NFL. Michigan State’s offense has guys east and west that will play in the NFL and cannot start right now. If I were to hazard a guess, MSU has somewhere between 10-12 guys currently on the offensive side of the ball that will play on Sundays. There are guys on the roster that may play in the NFL and never start at MSU unless a teammate goes down with an injury. This is true of an offensive line that everyone will have you believe lacks talent and needs to be rebuilt. Don’t buy it.

The defense will take a huge step forward. This will happen largely because the talent up front on the defensive line makes MSU dangerous. There will be a lot of QB’s on the ground this year. There are four solid defensive tackles anchored by All American Jerel Worthy. Tyler Hoover and Will Gholston could be the best DE tandem in the Big Ten. A lot of pressure will be applied to the QB with a four-man front.

Fewer blitzes will keep MSU’s linebackers where they need to be, in pass coverage.  This will result in a better percentage of third down stops. Jones and Gordon will be missed. I am not convinced that they will be missed as much on the field as everyone will have you think. I expect MSU’s linebackers to make more plays this year.

Greg Jones was a sure tackler. He wrapped up. He wasn’t good in pass coverage and never consistently blew up the ball carrier. He was a good athlete who made the most of what he had. On the other hand, Jones’ replacement is the type of player that rearranges the furniture when he finds the ball.

Max Bullough will change the way teams game plan for Michigan State. Max plays the MLB position the way that strikes fear in ball carriers. By the time the conference season rolls around (post ND), teams will have seen the impact Bullough brings to the field. By the third quarter, RB’s will be wondering what lies on the other side of that narrow crease…two things, pain and a green jersey donning the numbers four and zero.

Bullough, Allen, Norman, Gardiner, Gainer, Hammock and Harris should make for an amazing group of linebackers. They are collectively one of the best units on the team and could be one of the best in the Big Ten. MSU’s speed on the outside with Allen, Norman, Gardiner, Gainer and Harris will disrupt the short passing game and help contain mobile quarterbacks.

The defensive backfield is talented and full of youth. Senior Trenton Robinson is arguably the best safety in the Big Ten. Isaiah Lewis should start opposite of Robinson while Darqueze Dennard, Tony Lippett and Johnny Adams battle it out for the two jobs at corner. 

The defensive backs are youthful, but talented. Depth will need to be cultivated during fall camp. This group will look very good this season largely because the front seven will change the line of scrimmage and pressure the QB.

There are players in the two deep that have the skills and talent to play on Sunday. Again, there are guys on the defensive side of the ball that will play in the NFL and cannot start for the Spartans this season. There are 10-12 guys on the defensive side of the ball that are NFL caliber players. This is why MSU will be in the thick of the Big Ten title race.