Even with the departure of speedy wide receiver Jalen Nailor, Michigan State has a loaded group of pass-catchers heading into the 2022 season.
It starts with senior Jayden Reed, whose accomplishments have been well-documented. He led the Spartans in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns a season ago, and had the option of entering the 2021 NFL Draft before ultimately choosing to return to East Lansing for his senior season.
“It’s great having him back,” wide receiver Tre Mosley said of Reed. “It just makes everyone’s job easier having him out there, because…he’s going to draw so much attention, which will free up other guys in the receiving room, free up tight ends, running backs. So, having a great player like Jayden goes a long way for the team.”
One guy who is going to get a bigger opportunity this season is sophomore Keon Coleman, who has drawn rave reviews throughout the summer and first couple weeks of fall camp.
“I think Keon Coleman is going to be a stud,” said quarterback Payton Thorne.
Coleman got his feet wet as a true freshman in 2021 with 50 receiving yards on seven catches and a touchdown. Between Reed, Nailor and Mosley, opportunities were limited for Coleman a year ago, but all signs point to him leaping up the depth chart in 2022.
Coleman isn’t the only young receiver who is turning heads in fall camp however.
“I think we’ve got a couple young guys that are going to be really good,” Thorne said. “I think Germie Bernard has a chance to be a really good player. Cade McDonald is a guy who nobody talks about who I’ve played a lot of football with, who’s a really good player.”
Bernard was Michigan State’s third-highest ranked signee in the class of 2022, coming in at No. 237 overall and the No. 14 wide receiver prospect in the country. His name has come up often over the last several weeks, and no one should be surprised to see him get playing time as a true freshman.
“Keon Coleman and Germie Bernard, two of our younger guys, they’ve come a long way from the spring,” Mosley said. “They’re looking ready to go. They’re still learning, because they’re younger, but they’re definitely some guys that you’ve got to watch out for this year.”
Head coach Mel Tucker is excited to see what his young receivers add to the Spartan offense as well.
“We have some young guys,” Tucker said. “Some guys that maybe haven’t played as much, but have shown some good things in practices and maybe started to flash a little bit towards the end of last season that are back. Then, we have some new guys that are going to push those guys and are trying to get on the field.”
While a youth movement is upon Michigan State at wide receiver, the Spartans also have a good dose of veterans in the room as well. Beyond Reed and Mosley, guys like McDonald and Montorie Foster provide needed depth at the position.
“We have some guys coming back that have played a lot of football for us,” Tucker said. “J-Reed is obviously the headliner there, but Tre Mosley has played a lot of ball.”
Even without Nailor in the building, Mosley believes Michigan State is even better at the position in 2022 then the group was a year ago.
“The whole room is actually better than we were last season,” the redshirt junior said. “Getting the coaching from Coach [Courtney] Hawkins and Coach [Jack] Tabb, they stay on us. They don’t let us get comfortable, because they want us all to reach our ultimate goal, which is winning here and ultimately getting to the next level.”
Tucker has seen Hawkins influence on the group as well.
“Courtney Hawkins does a really good job,” he said. “He played the position, he played at a high level, he was an NFL guy and he’s a tackmaster.
“He’s very hands-on. He holds the guys to a really high standard, so they’re getting better every step of the way. In the meeting room or out there in practice, from the time they step out there those guys are working at the craft. I can tell they want to please him, and that’s a sign of a great coach – when the players don’t want to let you down, when the players want to play hard for you.”
The person who will benefit most is Thorne, who is happy to have a rich crop of options to throw the ball to this fall.
“I see a lot of guys that like to work hard, which is a great thing,” Thorne said. “I see a lot of speed. I see a lot of good hands, good body control. I think we’ve got a really good group, and we’ve got some good leadership in that group from different guys. Obviously, Jayden is the key leader and returner of that group.”