Reset: Looking at MSU through four games

Michigan State sits at 3-1 through four games, but who has helped lead to the success and who needs to step up for MSU to be successful in the next eight games -- and Big Ten play.

Offense

MVP: MacGarrett Kings Jr

After seeing little time as a true freshman and having his redshirt burned, Kings has cemented himself as the playmaker of the wide receivers as a sophomore. He leads the team in catches (13), yards (136) and touchdowns (2). He has shown the ability to make some difficult catches, but mostly has shown the improvement in the mental aspect and route running aspect of the game.

Surprising player: Blake Treadwell

Treadwell has probably been the most consistent player on the Spartans offense and has been steady at left guard through the first four games. He is a captain and leader of the offensive line and been winning at the point of attack routinely.

Disappointing player: Andrew Maxwell

The quarterback job coming into the year was Maxwell's to lose – and he lost it. The senior had an average year as a junior on an offense that struggled at almost every position. He started in the season opener but was replaced by Connor Cook pretty quickly. It looks like the job is Cook's for now and Maxwell's time is all but over – even though he got in on the final drive against Notre Dame.

Key player: Aaron Burbridge

Burbridge is potentially the best receiver on the Spartans, but hasn't played like it this year. He has some baffling drops and hasn't been as dynamic as he showed he could be as a true freshman. Kings has been consistent and MSU needs a second receiver to be a viable threat -- especially downfield -- and Burbridge has that potential. If MSU will have more success offensively, Burbridge has to be a factor.

Area of concern: Growth

For the most part, the offense is just as inept as last season's was. The Spartans struggle to move the ball and put up points with a defense that makes it possible to win every game on the schedule. In a bye week, MSU has the chance to mix things up and get going, but it's hard to see how that will happen with the lack of growth in the offseason.

Grade: D

Jeremy Langford, Nick Hill and Kings are bright spots, but the rest of the offense has been lackluster at best. The Spartans have the schedule and the defense to compete for titles, but the offense has to be at least consistent and find ways to score three touchdowns a game. If that happens, MSU will factor into the Legends Division race.

Defense

MVP: Shilique Calhoun

Calhoun has three defensive touchdowns already this season and been unlashing havoc in opponent's backfields. There were flashes of his skills in a backup role last year, but the sophomore has blown up in 2013. Behind Langford, he has the most touchdowns this season and has been a turnover machine.

Surprising player: Jairus Jones

Jones, who bounced around in the secondary as a starter for the first few years of his career, has made a home at linebacker. His role backing up Taiwan Jones and being a strong third-down backer has been important. He has two interceptions and is someone quarterbacks have to be aware of when he drops back into coverage. Out with an MCL injury for six weeks, he will be missed on the defense.

Disappointing player: Trae Waynes

It is really tough to peg anyone on the defense as disappointing, but Waynes has had some moments where he has struggled thus far. Looking away from the Notre Dame game, he was tested a bit against Youngstown State and was out of position early in the game but recovered because of his speed.

Key player: Marcus Rush

With Calhoun making plays at the weakside defensive end, Rush has been consistent at the strong side. However, if he can elevate his game to another level in Big Ten play, MSU will be even more dynamic defensively with two ends putting pressure on the QB. MSU struggled to do so against Notre Dame and will have to find a way to get in the backfield to help the cornerbacks.

Area of concern: Injuries

MSU already has been bitten by injuries as Isaiah Lewis, Taiwan Jones and Jairus Jones have all missed time early. Jairus Jones will be out for six weeks, causing Mylan Hicks to be moved to linebacker. Hicks has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career but will be needed in that backup role.

Grade: A -

MSU is one of the best defenses in the country and while the loss to Notre Dame was tough to swallow, the defense held its own. Penalties were the killer, however you want to take that. The defense is the backbone of the team and consistently will put MSU in a position to win.


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