Michigan State Football: Three Players Set to Break out in 2021

With Michigan State heading into its eight-week strength and conditioning program over the summer, Spartan Nation discusses three players ready to break out this fall.
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East Lansing, Mich. – It's nearly been a month since Michigan State opened its final spring practice to fans and media, giving everyone a closer look at Mel Tucker's Spartans in 2021. 

Over the weekend, the second-year head coach welcomed 14 new players, including three signees from the '21 recruiting class and 11 transfers. 

The only committed transfer missing was former Minnesota linebacker Itayvion Brown. However, he tweeted, "I'll be coming home this weekend," on May 14. 

MSU's first sessions of summer classes began on Monday, and an eight-week strength and conditioning program is set for May 24. 

With Michigan State heading into its next phase of the offseason, Spartan Nation discusses three players ready to break out this fall. 

QB Payton Thorne

Let's start with an easy one. After watching MSU's spring game, it was easy to conclude Thorne's efforts made this a closer competition than most initially thought. 

In 2020, it always felt like Rocky Lombardi had the edge over Thorne and would get the nod. Yet, this time around, Thorne received a majority of the first-team snaps, showcased various skills, and clearly understands the system. 

Anthony Russo, a grad transfer from Temple, is still playing catch-up and learning the playbook, but the two individuals Thorne battled last season entered the portal. His end-of-year performance against Penn State remains impressive, and he says his confidence is on another level. 

RB Kenneth Walker III

I admit, this one might also feel obvious, but Michigan State has lacked a serious rushing attack for a few years now, and Walker is here to change that. 

In just 20 games at Wake Forest, he ran for 1,158 yards and 17 scores. Last year, Walker played in seven games overall (284 snaps), tied for third in the ACC with 13 rushing touchdowns and 10th in rushing (72.4 ypg).

During MSU's spring practice, he was everything we thought he would be. Walker's vision, footwork, agility, quickness, and strength were on full display. He's the running back Michigan State lacked in 2020. 

As far as I'm concerned, he'll win the starting job and return the Spartans ground game to top form. 

DB Michael Dowell

Dowell is still listed as a safety on Michigan State's roster but played most of the Spartans open practice at nickelback. 

It appears that may be his permanent home this fall, and even though MSU can go in a few different directions here, I think Dowell fits nicely. 

The two-year letterwinner has 42 career tackles, including 0.5 sack, 0.5 tackle for loss, two pass break-ups, and one fumble recovery. 

Thorne specifically mentioned Dowell as a defensive player who has grown this offseason, and the Ohio native backed it up by intercepting his teammate in a live scrimmage. 

I expect Dowell to settle in here as he enters his fourth year with the program. 

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