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.
Spartans offensive line coach Mark Staten must be a happy man looking at his first five offensive linemen on the depth chart and knowing he’s got players with experience. However, if injuries step forward in 2015, Staten will have to look upon a few young players to step forward that could cause a weakness for the Spartans offense.
FIVE ACROSS EQUAL SUCCESS
Two fifth-year seniors in Jack Allen and Donavon Clark are solid blocks to build around. Allen, who will enter 2015 with 35 career starts (30 at center), earned All-American honors a season ago and this fall should be looked upon as the cornerstone of the Spartans offensive line.
Clark enters with 19 career starts having earned them at right guard along with left and right tackle during his career. His ability to play multiple positions have been huge for the Spartans the past two seasons and if he can settle in at right guard this fall, he should have his best season of all.
Jack Conklin continues to impress and enters with 23 consecutive starts at left tackle. Teammates, especially those he battles on defense sing his praise as he continues to prove doubters wrong having gone from walk-on to scholarship standout.
Kodi Kieler went from back-up to starter a year ago and the experience should help the Spartans in 2015 as they look to replace a couple of key offensive skill players. Built with great size, Kieler has shown he can get the job done and will be looked upon to take his game to another level.
The baby of the bunch is sophomore Brian Allen the freshman All-American from a year ago. Like his brother, Allen can play guard or center and has the inside track to secure the left guard spot this fall. Just like the Bullough’s on defense, the Allen brothers are making a name as Spartan offensive linemen.
OTHERS TO WATCH AND WHY
Dennis Finley – Sophomore
Make no mistake, Finley is a player to watch as the former Cass Tech standout has continued to show great improvement after entering MSU as a raw talent. A step away from taking his place along the Spartans offensive line, Finley will get reps this fall and could be very valuable if an injury would happen at either tackle spot.
Benny McGowan – Junior
The Ohio native has fought to get on the field and this season he’ll have an uphill battle to beat out Brian Allen at left guard. A solid run blocker, McGowan has grown as a player and will be an able back-up with the ability to step in if an injury would happen.
Miguel Machando – Junior
The former Pasadena City College lineman could be the biggest need if the Spartans look to compete for a national championship in 2015. One of the Top 100 JUCO prospects in the country, Machando has spent time in the program and has the physical size to get on the field. However, he lacks the experience you’d like to see for a back-up at right tackle.
THE GOOD AND THE BAD
The good is the starting five are as solid as they come.
The bad is the back-ups lack the experience you’d like to have.
The bad is the lack of experienced depth backing up the starting five.
The good is the youth and talent listed as back-ups on the depth chart along with those coming from the 2015 recruiting class.
Is the glass half full or half empty? That will be the question needing an answer in 2015 when talking about the Spartans offensive line. The starting five have proven big game experience but the back-ups lack much experience at all. If the Spartans can stay away from injury in the fall and continue developing the talent underneath the first five the season should be a success and the program should be solid going forward. Outside of running back, offensive line could be the biggest question at some point in 2015 and something to watch going forward.