Michigan State had arguably the best turnaround of any team in the 2017 season. Coming off a 3-9 record in 2016 the Spartans were able to achieve a 10-3 record. Head Coach Mark Dantonio and the rest of the Spartans are hoping to keep that trend going. Luckily for Sparty, Michigan State returns 19 of their 22 starters from that 10-3 season. As a result, it seems that MSU will likely have a great shot at being a B1G contender in 2018. After winning at Michigan and against Penn State last season, the expectations are rightfully at an all-time high.
It seems that Michigan State’s success on offense will solely rest on the shoulders of junior QB Brian Lewerke. Lewerke is unlike the traditional QB of a Dantonio offense, as he actually possesses the ability to scramble. In fact, last season Lewerke was able to rush for 559 yards on the ground. The addition of a run-pass option in this offense will open up a lot of doors in terms of play-calling. If Lewerke is able to make all of the throws that is asked of him, MSU could potentially have a Top 2 offense in the B1G.
The success of the offense relies on the QB, because the rest of the Spartan offense should be a well-oiled machine. Senior RB LJ Scott has lead Michigan State in rushing yards the last 3 seasons, and barring injury, this season will not be any different. Scott has the ability to move the chains and lay the wood in the process. Listed at 6’1″ and about 230 pounds, he is a prototypical power back. Son of former NFL player Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, Connor Heyward, seems to be up for the task of spelling Scott when it is needed. Expect for Heyward to continue to make steps forward and be a standout for the Spartans in the future.
Young but Talented
Michigan State’s running back stable is going to love the holes that their offensive line is going to create. Sophomore RG Kevin Jarvis is a star in the making for the Spartans, while fellow sophomore Jordan Reid has the versatility to lineup at almost any position at the offensive line. He is slated to start at the RT spot, but could end up anywhere. Junior LT Cole Chewins will have to take a step forward this season. There were times last season when Chewins struggled against tougher competition. If he can take that next step, the Spartans offensive line will be top notch.
Best in the B1G?
The Spartan’s return their Top 3 receivers from last season, 2 of which had 45+ receptions last season. Senior Felton Davis lead the team with 51 receptions and junior Darrell Stewart was just behind him with 48. The pair combined for just 10 TD’s, but we fully expect that number to increase this season. Sophomore WR Cody White had 35 catches as a true freshman, and expectations are continuing to increase for the kid. White could possibly be the next great WR to come out of Michigan State and has the ability to make it to the next level. In our opinion, the Spartan’s receiving corp matches up with anyone in the conference.
If you are a Michigan State fan, then you have grown accustomed to having a very stout defense. Fortunately, it seems like that trend is going to continue in the 2018 season. The Spartan’s are returning 9 starters on a defense that was #7 in the nation in overall defense and #2 in rushing defense. A big reason for that is DTs Mike Panasiuk and Raequan Williams. Both are rising juniors and both have NFL potential. Do not plan on going through these two 300 pounders. Also, with solid backups along the D-line Dantonio should be able to keep these guys fresh.
Joe Bachie might be the best linebacker in the B1G, and one of the best that Dantonio has ever had. Last year, he recorded 10 tackles, a sack, forced fumble, and an interception against Michigan alone. This made him the only B1G linebacker to do all of that in 1 game in the last 10 years. We fully expect that intensity to carry over to the 2018 season.
Cornerbacks Justin Layne and Josiah Scott may be young, but they have proved to be an absolutely disruptive duo. Expect for these two to take a few leaps forward and to increase their amount of takeaways. Their backups, Josh Butler and Tyson Smith, are more than formidable and will push for starting time. At the very least, they will allow for the starters to keep their legs fresh. Junior David Dowell is becoming a hard-hitting safety and senior Khari Willis is a great leader for the secondary. Overall, the Spartan’s defense looks like they will continue to take a step forward, even after such a spectacular 2017 season.
Expectations for the 2018 season are (and should be) very high for Dantonio and the Michigan State Spartans. We believe that RB LJ Scott will finally break the 1000 yard rushing mark, after coming close the past 3 seasons. If Lewerke is able to put it all together, the Spartans will be serious B1G contenders. If this is proven true Michigan State could find themselves in the same position they were back in 2015: in the College Football Playoff.