McDowell, Evans set to play

Michigan State's heralded freshmen getting down to play or redshirt time with Jacksonville State on tap for Friday

Michigan State brought in arguably its best recruiting class in Mark Dantonio’s tenure in the 2014 class. Now, those players are looking to get on the field with the first game coming this Friday night against Jacksonville State at Spartan Stadium.

A handful of true freshmen have drawn high praise during the preseason camp, but now that the season is near, who will play and who will redshirt is becoming clearer.

Due to a lack of depth on the offensive line and defensive lines, coach Mark Dantonio expects that is where many of the early contributors will be seen.

That starts with defensive tackles Malik McDowell and Craig Evans, with Enoch Smith trailing slightly behind.

“I think that you can basically say that Craig Evans is going to play and Malik McDowell is going to play,” Dantonio said. “Then the third one we’re going to have to wait and see.”

The lack of depth on the lines is due to the injuries to right guard Connor Kruse and defensive tackle Damon Knox, although both should be back sometime this season.

Defensive end Montez Sweat also was mentioned as he is working to separate himself and make his way onto the field.

“It'll depend on his practices,” Dantonio said. “Probably (Tuesday and Wednesday), but he's working in there with the twos, two and a halves.”

On the offensive line, Michigan State is replacing three starters from the Rose Bowl team a year ago. Five players return with starting experience, but depth was a concern for Michigan State after they had an eight-man rotation up front last year.

Both true freshman Brian Allen and junior college transfer Miguel Machado are listed in the two-deep of the latest depth chart and should factor into the rotation heavily. Allen is listed behind his older brother Jack Allen at center and Machado listed at right tackle.

With Donovan Clark filling in at right guard for Kruse, Michigan State should have the eight-man rotation that gave them so much success last year, provided Kruse returns fully healthy.

Defensive back Montae Nicholson drew praise throughout fall camp for his work at cornerback and safety and that was no different Tuesday, but Dantonio said he has to clean up mental mistakes to see the field.

“He can't make mental mistakes, so these next two practices are going to be extremely big for him,” Dantonio said. “He has the skills to be a starter this year, but he also could not see the field this year. It just depends on his development.

“We don't want to play a guy if he's not going to get significant reps.”

Other freshmen that could play are linebacker Chris Frey and running back Madre London.

“Take a red shirt off of Madre, he's got to play in other areas in terms of special teams, and I think he can do that, but that's a big decision,” Dantonio said.

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