Michigan State Football Searching for Linebacker Depth

After losing Antjuan Simmons to the NFL and four others to the transfer portal, Michigan State needs depth at linebacker.
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EAST LANSING – Michigan State football moved to a 4-2-5 defense under new defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton.

In 2020, Antjuan Simmons and Noah Harvey started all seven games while Chase Kline rotated as the third linebacker.

Simmons, the Spartan's top defender, isn't using the extra year of eligibility and is off to the NFL, leaving Harvey and Kline as the only two linebackers with real experience.

MSU lost four players at the position to the transfer portal, plus true freshmen Devin Hightower and Cal Haladay only received snaps on special teams.

Michigan State signed Ma'a Gaoteote and Carson Casteel to its 2021 recruiting class, and Mel Tucker landed two transfer linebackers in Ben VanSumeren (Michigan) and Itayvion Brown (Minnesota).

2021 Linebackers

Photo Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Returning Players: Noah Harvey (redshirt senior), Chase Kline (redshirt junior), Cal Haladay (redshirt freshman), Devin Hightower (redshirt freshman), Terry O'Connor (redshirt junior), Cole Demarzo (redshirt freshman), Kobe Myers (redshirt freshman), and Sam Edwards (redshirt freshman)

Transfers: Ben VanSumeren and Itayvion Brown

Incoming Freshman: Ma'a Gaoteote and Carson Casteel

Entered Portal: Jeslord Boateng, Charles Willekes, Marcel Lewis, and Luke Fulton

Analysis: Losing Simmons is huge for Michigan State, considering the lack of depth. 

On Tuesday afternoon, Tucker called the room "thin" and said the Spartans need to add more over the summer, which will happen courtesy of incoming recruits and grabs from the portal.

Harvey and Kline are the only two linebackers offering up legitimate snap counts; however, Tucker is using the spring to give young guys opportunities such as Cal Haladay, Cole DeMarzo, and Devin Hightower.

"It's an opportunity for them to show what they can do … I really like what Noah Harvey is doing because I've asked him to step up and lead more, and he's making a conscious effort to do that within his personality," Tucker told reporters in a videoconference. "He's not a rah-rah guy, but leading by example, knowing your personnel, and knowing how to touch your teammates and connect with them."

Haladay, Hightower, and DeMarzo will look to carve out more significant roles for themselves throughout spring ball and heading into summer.

Additionally, when VanSumeren and Brown arrive in East Lansing, both individuals should immediately compete for playing time.

"It's a group that's sound and solid," said Tucker. "They are working hard and getting better, but obviously, we are going to need to add to that group here in May and June."

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