Preview season is upon us, and Michigan State defensive tackle Jacob Slade has been named a preseason second team All-American by Walter Camp Football Foundation.
After a great redshirt junior campaign that earned him honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2021, Slade looks to make another big jump this upcoming season for the Spartans. This preseason projection becomes reality by the end of fall, Slade would be the first All-American interior tackle from MSU since Jerel Worthy in 2011.
Michigan State’s defensive front has always been a key for a successful Spartan defense — from Worthy, to Shilique Calhoun, a healthy Malik McDowell, to now Jacob Slade. Stepping up to replace Naquan Jones last season, Slade anchored a Top 20 rushing defense in the country. While impressive, it was overlooked due to the struggles with the pass defense.
Slade racked up 40 tackles last season, including five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. While “QB pressures” isn’t a stat that shows up in the box score, Slade collected 40 of them in 2021, which ranked amongst the highest in the country. That was quite impressive for an interior tackle. Worthy’s All-American campaign included 30 total tackles, with 10.5 TFL, and 3.5 sacks. QB pressures weren’t recorded until recently, so there isn’t a specific number to give for him in that regard.
So what does Slade need to do to achieve All-American status? It might not be entirely in his hands. He had the same amount of tackles, and tackles for loss last year as Georgia’s Jordan Davis (who was first team All-American). So, while the production is there, it may be up to his teammates to help Slade get the recognition.
Davis and Slade had near identical numbers, but Georgia ranked second in the country in total defense while Michigan State was 111th. Slade on his own created a lot of pressure, but the rest of the Spartans’ front seven will have to add to that.
Opponents are sure to gameplan for No. 64 next season, which could allow the rest of the defensive line to increase its production. Sack leader Jacub Panasiuk is gone, but there are high hopes for defensive ends Khris Bogle and Jeff Pietrowski to generate pressure on the edge for MSU’s defense.
Additionally, improvements on the back end of the defense will help as well. The Spartans are moving corner Chester Kimbrough to the nickelback spot and former safety Darius Snow is expected to slot in at linebacker, which will bring more speed to the Spartans’ defense behind the D-line.
These changes could indirectly help Slade get the recognition he deserves. Having high production is needed to become an All-American, but voters also look at the defensive unit as a whole. A great pass rush will lead to a better overall pass defense, which is necessary after last season.
Michigan State added Pass Rush Specialist Brandon Jordan and Defensive Line coach Marco Coleman this offseason, both of whom can help Slade make the jump fans and national prognosticators are anticipating.
With plenty of room for improvement for the defense as a whole, Slade can help lead the Spartans back to being a dominant force on that side of the football.