Building Blocks To A Championship: DL

Posting a 24-3 record the past two seasons has Michigan State looking to take the next step and win a National Championship in 2015. Spartan Digest continues positional breakdowns on both sides of the ball to see where the Spartans have a strength or weakness in this quest. We continue our look with the Spartans defensive line.

With back-to-back top five rankings, Michigan State enters 2015 as a team to watch. However, there could be a few potholes in the Spartans path as they look to win a Big Ten title and earn a spot in the college football playoffs.

However, it does not seem to be too many worries when talking about the Spartans defensive line in 2015.

BEST OF DANTONIO ERA?

It’s not just the starting four that should have MSU fans excited about the Spartans defensive front in 2015. Yes, Shilique Calhoun will enter the season as a two-time second team All-American to go with his honors from within the Big Ten Conference. Many expect the New Jersey native to have his best season wearing the Green and White before taking his game to the NFL.

Fellow senior Joel Heath comes off the best season of his career and many within the program feel the best is yet to come as the physical skills the Cincinnati native showed when being recruited have caught up with the football part of his development.

It may be hard to believe Lawrence Thomas is now a fifth-year senior. Thomas came to MSU as one of the top prospects in the country as a linebacker. Having made moves from linebacker, fullback, defensive end and defensive tackle, Thomas is back on the edge ready to use his athletic ability and physical size (300-pounds) to cause havoc.

The baby of the group is sophomore Malik McDowell. The Detroit native earned Freshman All-American honors showing why getting his signature in the Class of 2014 was huge for Mark Dantonio.

And that is just the starting four as the Spartans have done a great job of building young depth.

OTHERS TO WATCH AND WHY

Demetrius Cooper – Sophomore

From what Spartan Digest is hearing Cooper is ready to step forward and receive more reps backing up Calhoun. Since the first time the Spartans coaching staff saw Cooper, they knew he was a player that fit their scheme with his length and ability to come off the edge. The physical growth continues with Cooper being in a position to prosper the next three seasons.

Craig Evans – Redshirt Freshman

The former Scout four-star defensive tackle will get a chance to show why he was rated so high coming out of high school as he’s expected to back-up Heath at defensive tackle. With his stocky build and weight now up to 328-pounds, Evans will be able to take up space and provide solid minutes for the Spartans along the front four.

Damon Knox – Fifth-year Senior

Injuries slowed Know early last season and Spartan fans didn’t see the same player that stepped forward in big game the previous season. The time is now for Knox to get back to his 2013 from and provide solid reps behind McDowell. If not, Enoch Smith could get more reps than expected.

THE GOOD AND THE BAD

The good is the starting four and the physical ability they bring to the field.

More good is the size and speed at the Spartans defensive staffs disposal.

The bad is the concern by Spartan fans that McDowell has read too many headlines and underperforms his sophomore year.

Another bad would be if Knox is slowed again by injuries pushing younger players forward before the staff may want to.

THE OUTLOOK

The collection of talent along the front four is a major strength for the Spartans in 2015. Size, speed and depth are answered with a group of highly recruited players all capable of having big seasons and careers. Leadership is found from Calhoun, Heath and Thomas that will help not only in the trenches but also the back two-thirds of the Spartans defense. Three fifth-year seniors slotted to start along the front four is hard to find. With all three being players with possible NFL potential is even bigger.

Video: Calhoun Back In March


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