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

The Spartans return two starters at safety, but depth is questionable...

As the month of June winds to a close, Spartan Nation's journey through every position group of Michigan State football's roster is winding down as well.

The Spartans are in the midst of summer conditioning, as they prepare for their Sept. 2 season-opener against Mid-American Conference opponent Western Michigan. If you're anything like us, you're chomping at the bit to see MSU get back on the gridiron.

Today, however, we'll finish our analysis of the defensive side of the ball by looking at a position group that returns a lot of experience: Safety

One Thing I Like

Michigan State returns both starters at safety in senior captain Xavier Henderson and junior Angelo Grose.

The Spartans also return junior Darius Snow, who appeared in all 13 games with eight starts at nickelback and one start at safety for MSU in 2021. It's clear that Michigan State views Snow as a hybrid defender, as he has been working with linebackers coach and defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton.

Henderson led Michigan State in tackles in 2021 with 96 total stops, including 10 tackles for loss and a career-high three sacks. The senior was also the unquestioned leader of the Spartans defense, and brings a plethora of experience to MSU's secondary.

Henderson has appeared in every single game since putting on a Spartan uniform as a true freshman in 2018, with 46 total appearances and a whopping 33 starts at safety. He's started every game since the beginning of his sophomore season.

Meanwhile, Grose was the fourth-leading tackler for MSU a year ago with 83 stops, including 2.5 for loss. The junior was also active against the pass with seven pass-breakups and an interception.

The Spartans need to be much better against the pass in 2022, and the safeties need to do a better job helping the cornerbacks in that area. However, Michigan State has two reliable guys at the back-end of their defense to spearhead those improvements.

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One Thing I Don't

From what we've heard from Hazelton and head coach Mel Tucker, it sounds like Michigan State plans on using Snow all over the field (safety, nickelback, linebacker). That's an intriguing development, because Snow is the type of player who's capable at impacting the game from multiple areas.

However, that leaves the Spartans a little thin at safety, at least in terms of experience. Veteran safety Michael Dowell elected to transfer to Miami (OH) this offseason, and that leaves the Spartans with only one other safety who made a tackle in 2021 — redshirt sophomore Kobe Myers, who made one tackle last season.

If the worst happens and either Henderson or Grose suffer an injury that takes them out of the lineup, the Spartans could be in trouble. Maybe Snow moves back to safety in this scenario, but that would take away some of the versatility that he brings to the field.

One Thing To Keep An Eye On

We've been doing this a lot in these portions of these position group analysis articles, but when you've recruited as well as Tucker and his staff has it's inevitable.

Michigan State will have a pair of true freshman options at safety that are worth watching in four-star athletes Dillon Tatum and Jaden Mangham, both of whom were Top 300 national recruits in the class of 2022.

The Spartans have put a heavy emphasis on recruiting defensive back talent in recent cycles, and it will be interesting to see how quickly these two guys can make their way on to the field. Tatum in particular is a guy I can't wait to see, especially when Michigan State squares off with rival Michigan.

The freshman was considered a Wolverine-lean early in his recruitment, but things changed during his high school senior season, and he'll likely have a huge chip on his shoulder when the Spartans square off against the Wolverines. It's very common for kids like Tatum to come back to haunt Michigan while wearing a Michigan State uniform.

The Spartans also signed a trio of three-star safeties in the Class of 2022 in Malik Spencer, Quavian Carter and Malcolm Jones.

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, Cornerback, Safety).

Twitter: @mlounsberry_SI