We are three months away from the start of the 2022 college football season. Michigan State will open the year on Sept. 2 at home against Western Michigan.
The Spartans began summer conditioning today, May 31, to begin preparing for the start of fall camp in August.
With Year 3 of the Mel Tucker era on the horizon, Spartan Nation will be taking closer looks at every position group on the Spartans' depth chart and pointing out one thing we like, one thing we don't and something to keep an eye on.
Up next is the position group that probably has the most question marks heading into the 2022 season: Offensive Line
One Thing I Like
Michigan State lost five offensive lineman to graduation, and another to early-entry into the NFL Draft, following the 2021 season. The Spartans also had two veteran backups enter the transfer portal following the season.
Normally, that much turnover with one position group would be disastrous, but Michigan State was fortunate to have a deep and experienced group at O-line last season.
While much of that depth and experience has been stripped away, the Spartans should still have five to six guys along the O-line that have played quite a bit of football. Here's what the current top five offensive lineman look like for Michigan State, including where they are expected to start.
Jarrett Horst, LT – 28 career starts (20 at Arkansas State, eight at MSU), did not play the last five games of 2021 due to injury; Spencer Brown, RT – one career start, appeared in nine career games; Matt Carrick, RG – 18 career starts (11 in 2019, seven in 2020), appeared in 38 career games including first seven in 2021 before missing final six games due to injury; J.D. Duplain, LG – 23 career starts (five in 2019, five in 2020, 13 in 2021), appeared in 30 career games; Nick Samac, C – 10 career starts (four in 2019, six in 2020), appeared in 27 career games.
Michigan State also hit the transfer market in search of depth and landed Washington State transfer Brian Green, who played center and guard for the Cougars. He was an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention selection in 2020, and appeared on watchlists for the Rimington Trophy ahead of 2021.
Horst and Carrick are both coming off of injuries last season, and Duplain was limited during this year's spring practice due to minor injury as well. That's concerning, but assuming all of these guys are healthy at the start of fall camp, the Spartans have a solid group of six guys to rotate up front.
One Thing I Don't
Not many programs get through a season without attrition along the offensive line. It's a physical game, and the big guys up front get the brunt of that physicality.
If a couple of the guys mentioned above miss time due to injury, Michigan State only has young, inexperienced players behind them. Guys like Brandon Baldwin (R-Jr.), Evan Brunning (R-Jr.), Jacob LaFave (R-So.), Dallas Fincher (R-So.), Kevin Wigenton (R-Fr.), Geno VanDeMark (R-Fr.) and Ethan Boyd (R-Fr.) have been in the program for a couple years, but have had little opportunity to get on the field.
Now, inexperience doesn't necessarily mean these guys can't play, but it does leave the Spartans will a lot of question marks up front. Offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic is one of the best in the business, but he has a large task in front of him to get these young guys ready to contribute this season.
In my opinion, this position group right here will determine how successful Michigan State is in 2022. The Spartans have talent and depth at all of the skill positions on offense, but if the veteran O-lineman can't stay healthy and the younger guys struggle it could derail Michigan State's year quickly.
One Thing To Keep An Eye On
Kapilovic and Mel Tucker are hitting offensive line hard during this 2023 recruiting cycle, and Michigan State is in the running for a lot of top-end talent at the position.
Given the lack of proven depth above, its very important that the Spartans land some of their targets at O-line to begin increasing the talent-level and depth up front. Tucker knows he has to improve the trenches in order to compete at a national level, and that's evident in how he, Kapilovic and others on the staff are recruiting.
While the recruiting classes of 2023 and beyond won't affect this 2022 season, they will be instrumental in the type of program that Tucker is able to build in the future.
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: (Quarterbacks, Running backs, Wide Receiver, Offensive Line).