Spring Wrap Up: Special Teams

Michigan State returns all four primary special teams players from a year ago, led by punter Mike Sadler, who was key at many points last year. But the Spartans still should want more from their special teams going into 2014.

The comforting: Michigan State returns its kicker and punter with Michael Geiger and Mike Sadler back for more. The Spartans have a known entity in Sadler, and have known it for the past three years. Sadler was named All-Big Ten first-team by the coaches, second-team by the media as a junior and was a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award. He was key early last season – and throughout it, really – in keeping the Spartans in good field position, setting up the defense for success.

Geiger earned the starting spot early last season and took over for Kevin Muma and was solid as a freshman. He hit 15 of 16 field goals, which led the Big Ten and set a Michigan State freshman record.

The concerning: In the return game, Michigan State has not had a kickoff return for a touchdown since 2009 when Keshawn Martin was a sophomore and returned one against Minnesota.

It also has not had a punt returned for a score since 2011, which also came courtesy of Martin when he ran one back at Northwestern.

Last season, the Spartans replaced the often ineffective A.J. Sims Jr with MacGarrett Kings, which had decent results. Kings had an important run back against Stanford to put the Spartans in good field position. But Kings was suspended for spring ball for a violation of team rules, so the Spartans went through all workouts with arguably the most explosive player on the team in the return game.

The conclusion: Special teams win and lose games and for Michigan State, they have won a lot of games. Last year, it was Sadler who contributed in major ways. With Kings in the return game – once he is presumably reinstated, as Mark Dantonio indicated he would be – that is a nice element, as was freshman R.J. Shelton after he took over the kick return roles.

Having those explosive returners could take Michigan State to another level, as it has been missing recently.

When it comes to Michigan State's special teams, though, the thing to always keep in mind is trick plays. The Spartans and Dantonio run them, and Sadler has featured prominently into those plays lately.


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