Can Michigan State give a repeat performance of the success they achieved this past season in 2016? Dave Berk takes an early look.

Michigan State finished ranked 6th in the final AP College Football Poll after finishing the season with a 12-2 record and Big Ten Conference champions. Key losses will leave many questions and SpartanDigest.com managing editor Dave Berk takes an early look at 2016.

The Michigan State Spartans have completed another successful season under head coach Mark Dantonio.

With a final record of 12-2 and Big Ten championship in the books, Dantonio will be faced with replacing several key parts to the Spartans on both sides of the football.

While the loss of players like Shilique Calhoun, Joel Heath, Lawrence Thomas and R.J. Williamson on defense are major losses.  Dantonio and his staff have recruited well giving the Spartans the depth needed to replace their defensive losses.

However, much line in 2012, Michigan State must replace several key parts on offense starting at quarterback.

Following the departure of Kirk Cousins after the 2011 season, Spartan fans wondered if Andrew Maxwell had the tools, ability and experience to follow one of the program's all-time great signal callers.

In 2016 the Spartans will be faced with an even bigger shoe to fill as Connor Cook has used up all his eligibility and will soon be throwing footballs on the NFL stage.

Much like Maxwell, Tyler O'Connor and Damion Terry will wage a battle starting in the spring to replace Cook.

O’Connor will forever be known for leading the Spartans to a win over Ohio State in 2015, but his experience remains limited and like Maxwell the number of throws made leading up to his shot have been limited.

Maxwell entered the 2012 season having thrown a total of 51 passes for 294 yards and one touchdown.  O’Connor will enter having thrown the ball 54 times for 374 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.  While Terry has only 26 passes for 103 yards and zero touchdowns.

So all questions about how the Spartans will fare in 2016 must start here.

Add in the loss of standout wide receiver Aaron Burbridge and you find another major loss on the offensive side of the ball.  R.J. Shelton returns and should be solid but the rest of the receivers the Spartans will put on the field in the spring will have giant question marks by their names.

So two major losses does not make a team but when they are your two key players, Spartan fans have to wonder what they’ll see in the spring.

Last and not least is the losses suffered along the offensive line.  The Spartans coaching staff had hope Jack Conklin would return for his final season.  However, they also fully understand the reasoning Conklin had to depart the program.  But not being talked about is the loss of Jack Allen and Donavon Clark.

Allen started 46 games during his career and was known for being the group's leader.  While there looks to be players ready to step forward, Allen’s ability to play center, guard and tackle will be missed.

However, the most consistent Spartans offensive lineman this past season was Clark.  The Cincinnati native leaves the program having played in 46 games with 32 starts having played left tackle, right tackle and right guard.

Can the Spartans have a repeat performance of their success this past season in 2016?

On paper the answer has to be no as one look back in history shows us the 2012 season when the Spartans had a solid team that dropped several close games and finished the season at 7-6.

But as the snow continues to fall in the coming weeks fans can start looking ahead to spring football when players get their first chance to step forward and claim their spot in next season's depth chart.


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