Spring Wrap Up: Linebackers

Michigan State is replacing two starters in Denicos Allen and Max Bullough, but hopes its talented backups are ready to take over in 2014.

The comforting: After a 2012 season that didn't see many snaps for the backup linebackers, Ed Davis and Darien Harris saw the field plenty in 2013. That benefits the Spartans now as both are expected to step in and start with the departures of Denicos Allen and Max Bullough.

Davis showed flashes of what coaches have talked about in the previous years, especially when he had a pair of sacks against Michigan. He is expected to step in and start at the SAM spot, filling the spot left by Allen.

Taiwan Jones has moved inside – a mutual decision between himself and the coaches – to the MIKE spot vacated by Bullough. As a result, Harris is expected to take over at the STAR spot. All three expected starters came in the 2011 recruiting class and have spent a couple years in the system and now have the experience to go with it.

The concerning: Of all the losses from last season, linebacker might have lost the most with Allen and Bullough leaving. Both were three-year starters and consistent playmakers and leaders. Replacing a player like Bullough is a tall order, as he was well known as the captain of the defense and his computer-like nature on the defense is not easily replaced as he is from a sheer talent perspective.

On the other side of the coin, it is expected that the linebacker corps have enough to step in and not lose a beat.

Is that expectation unrealistic? Probably. It will take time and some lumps and have to make some adjustments. Jones has spent his first three years playing at the STAR spot.

A lack of depth also was an issue this spring as MSU had just a handful of linebackers on scholarship through spring ball.

The conclusion: With the amount of blitzes that Pat Narduzzi likes to use with his linebackers, the play of this group will be important and how quickly a couple of new starters step into their roles will dictate a lot.

A Week 2 trip to Oregon will be a big test quickly for the Spartans and the linebackers in particular figure to be tested.

The 2014 recruiting class, as it did both on the offensive line and defensive line, padded depth as four linebackers signed to be Spartans. That talent is something to be excited about, just as it was in 2011 when Jones, Harris and Davis signed – the three projected starters. The development of Riley Bullough and Jon Reschke was a pleasant surprise this spring and both figure to have nice futures ahead of them in East Lansing.


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