Michigan State will only had to replace four starters on offense from the 2013 Rose Bowl team and that number will remain low heading from 2014 into 2015.
The Spartans lose five starters, but look to have the talent to step in at many of those spots. SpartanDigest.com takes a look at what the depth chart could look like come the opening of the 2015 season:
Michigan State got a big boost when Cook decided to return. He will start for a third year as a Spartan and should continue to take strides forward in his game in terms of consistency. He is touted as an NFL prospect and probably could have been picked on the first day and possible in the first round had he left. Instead, he will be back and Michigan State has the centerpiece of its offense returning. Had Cook left, the Spartans would have been turning to heavy inexperience in either O’Connor or Terry. For now, those two will remain backups that continue to gain seasoning after Cook departs next offseason.
Michigan State loses Langford after two incredibly productive seasons as a starter. He had 40 rushing touchdowns and 2,944 yards in the past two years and was a model of consistency, especially in Big Ten play. Not only does MSU lose the starter Langford, but it loses his primary backup Hill as well. Hill became a reliable backup as a senior and played a good role in the offense. Now, it returns Williams, who has gained experience in the past two seasons. He figures to get the first look to be the starter. London was redshirted this season, but the reports are he was very good on the scout team. Holmes also is back as a sophomore and brings shiftiness. The wildcard in the group – but perhaps the most talented – is incoming freshman Scott. Scott is one of the nation’s top running backs and could step in and play immediately in East Lansing.
Pendleton will be back as a lead blocker for the Spartans, which is very good for the run game. He has been a steady player for MSU. Behind him probably is Chmura, who will likely need to step into the Andrew Gleichert role as a H-back.
Michigan State will have to recover from the loss of the Big Ten’s top receiver Lippett as well as arguably its best downfield threat in Mumphery. Those are two very large losses for Cook in the passing game. The Spartans return plenty of experience, though, so it will just be looking for a No. 1 receiver to step up like Lippett did in 2014. The most likely candidate is Burbridge, who needs to take a big leap as a senior. He has shown flashes throughout his career, but needs to be a consistent presence. MSU likes to list three receivers as a starter, so the next likely pair would be Kings and Shelton. The nice things for MSU is with the trio of Burbridge, Kings and Shelton is it has three receivers who know how to play multiple receiver spots. Another player that MSU could really use a step forward from is Madaris. Madaris played sparingly last year, but broke into the rotation once finally healthy. If he can stay on the field, he has shown he can be a force. Another name that will see plenty of time is A.J. Troup, a big-bodied receiver that had some big grabs last season.
Departure: Andrew Gleichert
MSU lost its top run blocking tight end in Gleichert, so his presence will be missed. But the Spartans bring back a player that should be one of the best in the Big Ten in Price. Price has been a good downfield threat and red zone player in the past couple years and should continue that. Lyles was not used a lot in the passing game last season, but is an open downfield as well. The question will be who establishes themselves as the important run blocking tight end. Senior Paul Lang should be in that picture as should sophomore Chmura. Matt Sokol, a redshirt in 2014, has the physical skills to be very good down the road and will start seeing the field.
Going into last year, the thought of a Conklin/Kieler pair for the coming years was intriguing. It looks like that will be the duo to open this year. Conklin should see his name on many All-American lists going into the season and is an early candidate for Big Ten offensive lineman of the year with center Jack Allen. On the right side, Kieler proved to be a steady tackle while splitting time with Clark.
- Donavon Clark
- Miguel Machado
While Michigan State loses two starters in Jackson and Kruse, it returns plenty of experience and starts in Clark. Allen also got a lot of time last season as a true freshman. The starting pair could go either way, with Clark at left guard and Allen at right, but early on, it seems more likely that Allen will be at left with Clark at right. It also is not out of the realm of possibilities that Clark winds up starting at right guard – where the junior college transfer Machado could step in and start potentially. Brandon Clemons also could be a backup at either offensive guard or defensive tackle. Good news for Michigan State: They have options and experience at all five offensive line positions and should be happy with the depth.
- Jack Allen
- Brian Allen
Allen is back to start for a fourth year and is as good as it gets nationally. He was All-Big Ten this season and, like Conklin, will be on plenty of preseason award lists. The Spartans lose backups in Jackson and Kruse, but Allen’s brother, Brian, is a capable center as well. Behind him, sophomore Devyn Salmon would be next up.