The three-year starter will move on following this season likely to the NFL, leaving a gap in the middle of the Spartans defense.
In the mix to fill the spot will be Max's younger brother, Riley, as well as rising junior to be Darien Harris. Current redshirts Shane Jones and Jon Reschke also will factor into the mix, linebackers coach Mike Tressel said.
"All those guys," he said. "We have to figure out who's the best leader, because I think they all can play ball."
Tressel said it will be key to find a guy who can make adjustments in the defense, but noted that isn't something a player walks into.
"Even Max Bullough two years ago is not the same as Max Bullough today," he said. "Yeah, you worry about it. When think ahead you say, ‘Who's gonna make those calls?'"
Riley Bullough has been playing on the offensive side of the ball since the spring, but also has been getting some reps back on defense recently. Harris was the No. 2 behind Max Bullough during fall camp and impressed, while Reschke has been working on the scout team as he redshirts.
"He's doing well," he said. "There's always a little bit of when you realize that you're redshirting, intensity backs off a little bit. As a coach I'm continuing to try to crank up the intensity and remind him that offensive line he's going up against every single day is playing pretty well. That offensive line, if you accept the challenge, will help you improve greatly."
It also was possible that Reschke would have played this season if not for an injury late in fall camp.
"He probably would have," Tressel said. "He had the learning curve where he would have been able to get on the field and he has the athletic ability where he would have gotten on the field but maybe it works out in the end."
Fortunately for MSU, the time do make a choice is a ways away and bowl practices and spring football will provide a good time to work toward a future middle linebacker.
"We'll experiment with different guys at that Mike spot during bowl practice and certainly spring ball," Tressel said. "But I tell you what, the guys that are with us right now, they've seen some pretty good players and they've seen how to do it right so they have something to draw on."