As the Michigan State Spartans prepare to kickoff against Rutgers this weekend, they will do so without Kenny Willekes, Raequan Williams, and Mike Panasiuk – a group of three-year starters on the defensive line.
It won't be easy, but MSU has been tasked with reshaping its defense; however, plenty of players are ready to step up.
"Part of that is just taking advantage of every opportunity that you have and making the most of it, and I plan this season to make the most of every opportunity that's given to me," Drew Beesley told reporters last week. "I expect a lot of great things from me as well as our defense this season because we're coming."
Beesley learned a lot from guys who came before him and knew when they left; there wouldn't be a way to fill their shoes.
"There's no replacing Kenny; there will always be one Kenny Willekes," Beesley said. "He always emphasized on hustling to the ball, getting to the ball. The same with Mike and Rae – they were just thumpers that were always trying to get the ball and being disruptive."
Redshirt senior Naquan Jones and sophomore Jacob Slade are the Spartans top defensive tackles (taking over for Williams and Panasiuk), with Jalen Hunt and Dashaun Mallory to back them up.
But Beesley sees an opportunity to create something special with senior defensive end Jacub Panasiuk returning to the team following his initial decision to opt-out.
"With Jacub coming back, I'm very ecstatic that he's coming back. He was a big part of our defense last year, being opposite of Kenny and me being out there with him sometimes. He brings another thing to the table," said Beesley.
There isn't much experience beyond Panasiuk and himself, but redshirt junior Jack Camper and Michael Fletcher should contribute throughout the season.
The two-year letterwinner played in all 13 games last year, finishing with 14 tackles (nine solo, five assists), including six tackles for a loss, and 1.5 sacks (Beesley recorded his first sack against Michigan).
"I feel like I have a better understanding of the game," Beesley said. "My mind is moving faster when I'm on the field; I'm not panicking, I'm able to play at high speed and not have to think too much because normally football players they play good when they don't have to think as much."
Beesley, a 6-foot-2, 260-pound defensive end, is entering his final year with Michigan State and getting closer to becoming the football player he always envisioned.
"Playing behind guys like Kenny and Jacub, it's kind of hard to achieve that success as soon as you wanted to, but just being patient, your opportunity's going to come, and mine came," said Beesley. "This is the time."
Tell us what you think in the comment section below.
Want the latest breaking MSU news delivered straight to your email for FREE? Sign up for the DAILY Spartan Nation newsletter when you CLICK THE MAGAZINE ICON at the top left of the page or the FOLLOW button back on the main page. Don't miss any of the latest up to the second updates on Michigan State Sports when you follow on Twitter @HondoCarpenter @McLainGrant1