Michigan State lost a couple of big playmakers to this year's NFL Draft in Kenneth Walker III and Jalen Nailor. Both of those guys were big plays waiting to happen, and gave the Spartans' offense the ability to be explosive.
With Walker and Nailor off to the professional ranks, Michigan State needs a couple guys to step up and be "game-changers" in 2022. The word "exciting" is defined as "causing great enthusiasm and eagerness". The most exciting players in Spartan history include Charles Rogers, Lorenzo White, Plaxico Burress, Le'Veon Bell and many others.
Who can be that player for Michigan State in 2022? Let's dive in.
This conversation has to start with senior wide receiver Jayden Reed. When you think about the Spartan offense, he's one of the first, if not the first name that comes to mind. Reed led Michigan State in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns last season. He averaged 17.4 yards per catch, and he is far and away quarterback Payton Thorne's favorite target. Reed plays above his 6-foot, 185-pound frame. On several occasions in 2021, we saw him go over the top and "Moss" an opposing defensive back to come down with huge grabs for the Spartans. In terms of excitement, it's hard to beat that.
Having Nailor on the field with Reed made Michigan State's passing attack lethal for much of the 2021 season, but Nailor is out the door.
Enter: Keon Coleman. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound sophomore is a perfect candidate to replace the departing Nailor as that second, lethal receiving option for the Spartans. He appeared in 10 games in 2021, but had limited productions with seven catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. However, Coleman's rare combination of size, speed and freakish athleticism make him a tantalizing option for Michigan State. As a newcomer last year, he got to sit behind and learn from two savvy veterans in Reed and Nailor, and he could be primed for a breakout season as a sophomore.
Replacing what Walker did in the backfield for the Spartans in 2021 will be next to impossible, but I'm looking forward to seeing Colorado transfer Jarek Broussard in a Green and White uniform. In two seasons in Boulder, Broussard had 298 carries for 1,556 yards and seven touchdowns for the Buffaloes. While he's doesn't have Walker's size, Broussard does have very good speed and shiftiness as a runner, and I think he's got a chance to be excellent in the backfield for the Spartans this season.
Broussard isn't the only newcomer who could make an immediate impact at MSU. Wisconsin transfer Jalen Berger has a chance to step in and play an important role for Michigan State right away as well. As a freshman, Berger showed flashes of becoming the next great Badger running back in Madison. But things went awry last season, as he got just 24 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown before departing Wisconsin's program. But, Berger is a former four-star talent, and we've already seen what head coach Mel Tucker can do with a transfer tailback. Berger could see the field quite a bit for the Spartans in 2022.
Finally, something of an "out of left field" option for Michigan State's most exciting player is redshirt sophomore tight end Maliq Carr. Like Coleman, Carr was a young player who found himself behind a few veteran guys at his position on the depth chart. In 2021, Connor Heyward and Tyler Hunt got most of the reps at tight end. However, Carr played in six games, including five of the final six games of the season, and he has the most upside of any of Michigan State's current options at tight end. The 6-foot-5, 245-pounder caught eight passes for 135 yards last season, but should get many more opportunities in 2022. Most exciting player? Perhaps not. But Carr is definitely a player to keep an eye on this fall.
Jayden Reed is the obvious choice. He's going to show up every week, be productive, make winning plays and will likely lead Michigan State in most receiving categories.
But in terms of pure excitement, I'm going to go with Keon Coleman. This kid just oozes potential, and he's got the work ethic to wring out every ounce of that potential, as proven by his determination to play two sports at Michigan State. Coleman's abilities have already made him a fan favorite in East Lansing, now he just needs to turn that ability and potential into production. Comparing him to Charles Rogers or Plaxico Burress feels a little irresponsible — but at the same time, it feels like the types of seasons those guys had are within Coleman's reach if it all comes together for this gifted young athlete.
Michigan State football will begin its summer conditioning program on May 31, and the Spartans have several exciting pieces to work with heading into the 2022 season.