Michigan State Football '21 Depth Chart Predictions Post Spring Ball- Defense & Special Teams

Michigan State Football '21 Depth Chart Predictions Post Spring Ball- Defense & Special Teams

Michigan State Football '21 Depth Chart Predictions Post Spring Ball: Defense & Special Teams

Now that spring practice is over, Spartan Nation evaluates Michigan State's defense and special teams heading into summer.
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East Lansing, Mich. – Michigan State football's defense is coming together, but it's still missing a few key components. 

The Spartans will rely on multiple transfers and young players to help turn things around after giving up 35.1 points per game, the most in school history.

Listed below is our projection of MSU's defensive depth chart alongside special teams heading into summer.

Defensive End

Starters: Jacub Panasiuk (rs-sr.), Drew Jordan (grad transfer), Drew Beesley (sixth-year sr.)

Reserves: Michael Fletcher (rs-so.), Jack Camper (rs-sr.)

Lost in the transfer portal: DeAri Todd and Jasiyah Robinson

Breakdown: Michigan State needed to improve its defensive ends this offseason, so they brought back Beesley and welcomed Jordan.

Last season, Beesley led MSU in sacks and became one of the strongest leaders on the team.

Then there's Panasiuk, a player who has contributed since he was a true freshman (2017). In 2020, he contracted COVID-19, lost close to 25 pounds, and wasn't the same player. However, he gained most of it back and looked in good shape during MSU's spring game, taking most of the first-team reps with Beesley.

Jordan competed alongside the second team during spring practice, but it's only a matter of time before the staff gives him a significant snap count.

The 6-foot-3 Georgia native started three years at Duke and didn't leave for a spot on the bench. As far as the reserves go, Fletcher is long, athletic, and still developing. But he's where you want to see a player who just finished his second year. Camper can flip between end and tackle, suggesting Michigan State wants to show different looks and improve its pass rush. 

Defensive Tackle

Starters: Jacob Slade (rs-jr.) and Jalen Hunt (rs-so.)

Reserves: Dashaun Mallory (rs-jr.), Maverick Hansen (rs-so.), and Simeon Barrow (rs-fr.)

Lost in the transfer portal: Chris Mayfield

Breakdown: There's no questioning where Michigan State's strength lies in 2021.

The combination of Slade, Hunt, Mallory, and Hansen is a solid rotation. Slade showcased his skills behind Raequan Williams and Mike Panasiuk, which helped him develop.

Before an injury, Hunt was neck and neck with Naquan Jones for the starting job. At 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds, he's quick, agile, and difficult to move.

Mallory is an excellent No. 3 who joined the Spartan rotation last year, playing in all seven games while recording 15 tackles, including three for a loss and two sacks. Then you add in Barrow and Hansen, who looked really good during MSU's spring practice, and you understand why this is Michigan State's biggest strength. 

Linebacker

Starters: Noah Harvey (rs-sr.) and Quavaris Crouch (transfer)

Reserves: Chase Kline (rs-jr.), Ben VanSumeren (transfer), Itayvion Brown (transfer)

Lost in the transfer portal: Jeslord Boateng, Charles Willekes, Luke Fulton, and Marcel Lewis

Breakdown: It's no secret that linebacker is a position of need for Michigan State.

Harvey and Kline are the only two returning linebackers with any on-field experience. While Harvey posts solid tackling numbers, he greatly benefited from a traditional offseason featuring 15 spring practices.

With a better grasp of the defense, he should improve this fall. 

Although, there's an open spot next to him since Antjuan Simmons elected not to return. Kline is still around, but Mel Tucker added VanSumeren, Brown, and Crouch from the portal to bolster the group.

I see VanSumeren contributing right away and competing for playing time, whereas Brown might need another year to develop. Even so, the guy to keep an eye on here is Crouch. He's a former five-star running back who switched to linebacker.

Crouch is a raw talent still learning the position, but he has tremendous upside. And right now, MSU needs a player with his size, athleticism, and physicality to cover ground in its 4-2-5 defense.

Nickelback

Starter: Michael Dowell (rs-jr.)

Reserves: Darius Snow (so.)

Breakdown: There's been some movement from last season until now in the secondary. Initially, it made sense for Dowell and Snow to compete for a spot among the safeties, but it appears both have moved to nickelback.

At times, this position served as a third linebacker, but with Dowell hanging around, quarterbacks will need to be wary of his coverage skills. Payton Thorne learned that the hard way as he picked him off in Michigan State's spring practice.

Snow can provide many of the same skills Dowell does, including a hard-hitting tackler, just in a reserve role.

Cornerback

Starters: Kalon Gervin (rs-jr.) and Ronald Williams (transfer)

Reserves: Chester Kimbrough (transfer) Marqui Lowery Jr. (transfer), Charles Brantley (fr.), Khary Crump (transfer)

Lost in the transfer portal: Julian Barnett, Chris Jackson, Davion Williams

Breakdown: Another position that experienced significant attrition losing Barnett, Jackson, and Williams to the portal.

It was a room Tucker needed to reshape quickly.

So, he signed Brantley and Antoine Booth to the 2021 class then added Chester Kimbrough (Florida), Crump (Arizona), Lowery Jr. (Louisville), and Williams (Alabama) through the portal.

Gervin's spot is secure, but the other is up for grabs. Kimbrough is a former top prospect who couldn't break through a talented room at Florida. He's looking for a chance to start, and Michigan State might be the place for him.

Though Williams, a former five-star prospect, top JUCO player, and Crimson Tide corner, will only heat up the competition. 

Safety

Starters: Xavier Henderson (sr.) and Angelo Grose (so.)

Reserves: Kendall Brooks (transfer), Michael Gravely Jr. (fr.), Tate Hallock (rs-so.)

Lost in the transfer portal: Dominique Long

Breakdown: There's more stability here than I originally thought, especially after the staff made some necessary adjustments.

Grose is now a part of the safety room after starting four games at nickel in 2020. He received lots of first-team reps in MSU's spring game.

Tucker likes using numerous defensive backs, meaning the reserves see the field plenty. Brooks, a Division II product on scholarship, should translate to the next level. Hallock earned his first letter last year and has played in six contests since joining the team in 2019. I'll be interested to see how he fits in the rotation. 

Special Teams

Kicker: Matt Coghlin (sixth-year senior)

Reserve: Cole Hahn (rs-sr.)

Punter: Bryce Baringer (rs-sr.)

Longsnapper: Hank Pepper (fr.)

Reserve: Michael Donovan (fr.)

Lost in the transfer portal: LS Jude Pedrozo, LS Bryce Eimer, K Jack Olsen, P Jack Bouwmeester

Breakdown: The return of Matt Coghlin led to the loss of Jack Olsen, a top-five kicker in the 2020 class and presumably Coghlin's successor.

Now, MSU will need to grab a kicker next recruiting cycle.

Baringer is the only punter on Michigan State's roster, and the staff probably pursues two walk-ons in the form of another punter and kicker before the season starts.

Pepper is the starter at long snapper and considering he's on scholarship, it's clear what the Spartans think of him.


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East Lansing, Mich. – Michigan State football's defense is coming together, but it's still missing a few key components. 

The Spartans will rely on multiple transfers and young players to help turn things around after giving up 35.1 points per game, the most in school history.

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