Michigan State fans know of the struggles the Spartans have seen in pass defense so far this season and with two key starters already out in Vayante Copeland and R.J. Williamson, fans have their doubts on what the Spartans can do against any team in pass defense.
So, when looking at how the Spartans match-up against rival Michigan, we have to look at more than just the corners and safeties as the Wolverines do use their tight ends and will use more than one.
Here are eight players to know from Michigan's group of receivers and tight ends.
|UM PLAYERS||HT/WT||THINGS TO KNOW|
|Has started five games with 13 receptions for 132 yards and no touchdowns. Scored on a 96 yard kickoff return to start the Northwestern game. Will also get the ball in the running game and has five attempts for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns.|
|Second leading receiver and a player MSU must keep an eye on as he's one of the top tight ends in college football. Has 22 receptions for 274 yards (12.5 avg) and 1 touchdown.|
|Has played in all six games with 6 receptions for 39 yards (6.5 avg) and no touchdowns.|
|Teams leading receiver with 25 receptions for 280 yards (11.2 avg) and 2 touchdowns this season.|
|Williams is a player that has the frame of an offensive tackle but plays tight end. Can set up 5-10 yards and make a catch (7 receptions for 79 yards) but his main goal is to provide extra blocking.|
|Has started one game and has posted 2 receptions for 31 yards.|
|Poggi will be used as a tight end or fullback and used more for his blocking than receiving. Only has 1 catch on the season for 2 yards.|
|Has played in all six games with 4 receptions for 55 yards and no touchdowns. Another of the tight ends the Wolverines will trot out.|
In six games Michigan has thrown for 1,135 yards on 106 receptions. Jake Rudock has all but four of the pass attempts and he’s hit 18 different receivers with an average of 10.7 yards per reception. Amara Darboh and Jake Butt are the two main targets for Rudock but he’ll also look to dump the ball to running backs as De’Veon Smith has seven receptions on the year with one touchdown.
|Hicks started 10 games last season and missed the majority of the preseason with mono. Came back as a back-up but injuries have shifted things to where he's back as a starter. Struggled in pass coverage late last season but must find his way back. Left Rutgers game with an injury but is expected to be ready.|
|Fifth-year senior with 21 tackles on the season to go with 3 pass breakups. Was a back-up at the start of the season but replaced Vayante Copeland when he went out in the Oregon game with an injury that saw the Spartans shut down Copeland for the season.|
|Cox is fourth on the team in tackles with 32 and has also posted an interception on the season. Started the season at corner but was moved to safety with the injury to R.J. Williamson. At times gets too high on tackles, he could play better.|
|While Nicholson has 30 total tackles he's missed too many for Spartan fans to remember and his pass coverage has been in question. Known for his ability to make plays (interceptions) he's got 2 on the season. Was a starter early in the season but was replaced. Moved back in the starting lineup because of injuries.|
|Harris is third on the Spartans in tackles with 37 but has shown the abilty to give solid pass coverage with 2 pass breakups on the season.|
|While set in the middle of the Spartans defense, Bullough goes sideline to sideline for the Spartans leading the team in tackles with 55 and has a pass breakup posted on the season.|
|Second on the Spartans in tackles with 38, Reschke might be the player UM looks to go after with their tight ends and backs. Has no pass breakups on the season.|
Will Michigan look to abandon their run first game plan to go after a Michigan State secondary that has seen it’s share of problems?
How much of a role with the Spartans linebackers play in pass coverage as the Wolverines like to use their tight ends and bring backs out of the backfield?
These are two keys to watch in this rivalry match-up and much like the Spartans a big play here or there by the Wolverines in the passing game could mean the difference in the outcome of the game.