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Michigan State linebackers: One Thing I Like, One Thing I Don't

The Spartans have depth, maybe too much depth, in the middle of their defense...

Recruiting season is well underway during this critical month of June, but Spartan Nation is continuing its look at the players already on the roster for this analysis of every position group.

We've completed our review of the offense, and we got the defense started last time with a look at the Spartans' defensive line. Up next is perhaps the deepest and most-talented position group for Michigan State: Linebackers

One Thing I Like

We kind of spoiled this with our last sentence, but it's true — Michigan State's defense is loaded with linebacker talent in 2022.

Even with the transfer of Quavaris Crouch, who started nine games at linebacker for the Spartans in 2021, Michigan State is in great shape at this position.

Freshman All-American Cal Haladay returns after a breakout rookie campaign in which he was MSU's second-leading tackler with 89. Haladay also proved himself in the pass game with a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns, to go along with two pass deflections. The to-be sophomore also had a forced fumble and fumble recovery in 2021.

Michigan State also hit the transfer market to bring in a pair of veteran linebackers in Aaron Brule (Mississippi State) and Jacoby Windmon (UNLV). 

In 38 games played and 19 starts, Brule collected 141 tackles, including 17.5 for loss, for the Bulldogs. He had eight career sacks, three pass deflections and two fumble recoveries at Mississippi State.

Windmon, meanwhile, was a two-time All-Mountain West honoree, earning second team recognition last season and honorable mention in 2020. He finished his career with the Rebels with 169 career tackles, including 18.5 for loss. He added 12 sacks, four pass break-ups and three forced fumbles across 30 games played and 19 starts at UNLV.

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Michigan State also sees the return of Ben VanSumeren, who opted to stay in East Lansing following a stint in the transfer portal this spring. The former Michigan Wolverine participated in spring practice with the Spartans and took first team reps during Michigan State's spring game. VanSumeren played in all 13 games for MSU last season, totaling 12 tackles for the Spartans.

One Thing I Don't

This surplus of talent at the linebacker position has led to some turnover at the position. As mentioned above, Crouch departed the program due to the crowed linebacker room, and the Spartans nearly lost VanSumeren and sophomore Ma'a Gaoteote to the transfer portal as well.

Ultimately, having "too much" talent at one position is a good problem to have. If everyone stays happy, it allows the coaching staff to utilize certain guys who fit certain situations best — but it's difficult, if not impossible, to keep everyone happy in modern college football when the transfer portal is readily available.

Head coach Mel Tucker has been very good in utilizing the portal so far to better his roster, but adding multiple players at one position — like he did this offseason at linebacker — can cause some unrest among the players who are already on the roster.

One Thing To Keep An Eye On

Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Scottie Hazelton has been experimenting with nickelback/safety Darius Snow at linebacker this spring and summer.

Snow played in every game for Michigan State in 2021, making eight starts at nickel and one start at safety. He was tied for third on the team with 81 tackles, including 5.5 for loss. Snow added two pass break-ups, an interception and a fumble recovery.

At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Snow has the size and strength to play linebacker for the Spartans, and could also bring more speed to the position for Michigan State. A versatile defender, Snow can be used all over the field by Hazelton, and it will be interesting to see how his skills are utilized in 2022.

In Case You Missed It

This article is part of a series examining every position group on Michigan State's roster. You can find the other position groups that Spartan Nation has already covered here: (Quarterback, Running back, Wide Receiver, Offensive Line, Tight End, Defensive Line, Linebacker).

Twitter: @mlounsberry_SI