The comforting: Michigan State returns both defensive ends in Shilique Calhoun and Marcus Rush and the pair figures to be quite a force yet again. Calhoun is drawing plenty of early talk as a first-round pick next season – after his junior year. Rush, who seemingly has been in college for a decade, brings another reliable defensive end.
Redshirt freshman Demetrius Cooper showed he can be an absolute terror this season after bulking up during his redshirt year. Between Cooper and a healthy Lawrence Thomas, the Spartans can only be happy with the defensive end situation.
The Spartans also padded depth with five incoming freshmen on the defensive line, highlighted by five-star Malik McDowell.
The concerning: The top three defensive tackles are gone, with Tyler Hoover and Micajah Reynolds graduated and in NFL training camps and Mark Scarpinato off to med school after graduating early. Heath moved inside as a result, but looks to fit the part well. Knox was impressive in flashes last year, but being the main guys will be a transition.
The Spartans like to have a rotation on the defensive line, especially inside, and the depth last year was a huge asset. It's not quite the same right now. How freshman Craig Evans adjusts to the college game – and assuming he meets academic qualifications – will make an impact on that rotation.
The conclusion: With Calhoun as the headliner, Michigan State has a nice defensive line heading into this season. It also got younger with the addition of McDowell and Evans, who figure to have impacts as freshmen.
The starting four of Calhoun, Rush, Knox and Heath bring experience with a lot of athleticism and that is something the Spartans should be excited about as it looked to replace key players elsewhere on the defense.