As 12 seniors left the football program, MSU welcomes 25 newcomers to the mix, hungry to compete for the numerous starting jobs left vacant.
Still only a sophomore, running back Javon Ringer comes into spring ball in a different situation. Not only does he appear to be the starting running back for the Spartans, but along with Drew Stanton, he is a key to the MSU offense.
Ringer rushed for 873 yards and seven touchdowns in his freshman campaign last season.
After rushing for 69 yards and a touchdown in his Spartan debut against Kent State, Ringer exploded in the following game, scoring three touchdowns on 90 yards.
While Teague and Caulcrick continued to get their carries as well, Ringer unofficially claimed his starting spot or at least a bigger share of the carries when he rushed for 194 on just 13 carries as the Spartans demolished Illinois.
John L. Smith showed confidence in Ringer when he increased his carries. Ringer finished with 122 carries on the year, with Caulcrick getting just 89 yards and Teague 78 yards. While getting the ball nearly 14 times a game, Ringer established himself as the future back of the Spartans.
"I didn't surprise myself last year," said Ringer. "A lot of times, I felt like I could have performed better. With working my way into the three-back rotation, I didn't try to do anything outrageous when I was in the game because I didn't want to be taken out of the lineup."
Despite Ringer's success, junior running back Jehuu Caulcrick is listed at the top of the Spring depth chart, but in reality, the Spartan ground game is a three-man attack, much like last season with Caulcrick, Ringer, and the departed Jason Teague.
Redshirt Freshman A.J. Jimmerson steps in as the third back in the offense.
"A.J. Jimmerson is a real good back. He's got good feet, and he's a determined runner. A.J. is fast too, so it will be good to have another speedster in the backfield that can break a long run," said Ringer.
"I'm looking forward to the scrimmages because as a player, you improve most in game situations, especially when you're going against the starting defense," he added.
While Caulcrick and Jimmerson will get their carries, Ringer's play last season puts him in a position to garner more time on the field and more confidence from Coach Smith.
So the question is, can Ringer establish himself as a clear-cut starter for the Spartans, a true "bell-cow" who gets the ball 20-25 times a game and turn the offense into a deadly ground threat?
He definetly has the confidence and determination to do so, and with the coach having belief in his young running back, the potential for that kind of success is clearly there.
"I did okay last year, but I know I can do better," said Ringer.
A running back is only as good as his offensive line, or so the cliché goes, thus it will be interesting to see how the new and inexperienced offensive line of Mike Gyetvai, Kyle Cook, John Masters, Roland Martin and Jesse Miller gel together and protect not only quarterback Drew Stanton, but Ringer and the rest of the running backs.
"I believe that this offense is capable of producing a couple 1,000-yard rushers," said Ringer.
"Obviously, it's more difficult here because we have a three-back rotation. A lot of offenses feature only one back, who gets the bulk of the carries. With the three-back rotation, we always have a fresh pair of legs in the lineup. I'm confident that at least one back will gain over 1,000 yards this year," he added.
The most likely candidate to have that happen is Ringer. While Caulcrick is a more bruising straight ahead type runner in the mold of former Steelers great Jerome Bettis, Ringer has the kind of slashing style of running that can make an opponent miss.
The Spartans would love to be able to rely on their run game in the second half of ballgames. MSU gave up the lead numerous times in the second half of the season. The three-headed monster led by the sophomore Ringer will give them a chance to do that.
GSN editor Mike Fowler contributed to this story