#43 Michigan State Football 2017 Preview


Michigan State Spartans


Overall Rank: #43

#8 Big Ten

A year after reaching the playoffs, Michigan State completely collapsed in 2016. The Spartans won just three games and only one of them was against a Big Ten opponent. That was a 49-0 thrashing of Rutgers. With distractions on and off the field, there are plenty of questions about where this program is headed. For now, the Spartans realistic goal should be reaching a bowl game. And there is enough talent on the roster for that to easily happen. There was last year too though.
2016 Record: 3-9, 1-8
2016 Bowl: None
Coach: Mark Dantonio (90-42 at Michigan State, 108-59 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Dave Warner, Jim Bollman
Defensive Coordinator: Harlon Barnett, Mike Tressel
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: L.J. Scott, RB, 495 yards
Passing: Brian Lewerke, QB, 381 yards
Receiving: Felton Davis, WR, 150 yards
Tackles: Chris Frey, LB, 96
Sacks: Demetrius Cooper, DE, 2.5
Interceptions: Three tied with1
Other Key Returnees: RB Gerald Holmes, QB Damion Terry, OL Brian Allen, LB Andrew Dowell
Key Losses: QB Tyler O’Connor, WR R.J. Shelton, WR Donnie Corley, TE Josiah Price, DE Malik McDowell, LB Riley Bullough, S Montae Nicholson, S Demetrious Cox
Brian Lewerke earned a couple starts last season and looked like the most dangerous quarterback on the roster. A broken leg ended his season early though. On the year he completed 54.4 percent of his passes for 381 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 149 yards on 21 carries. Lewerke is a smart sophomore who can make the big throws and do a little damage with his legs too. This is now his team. But Lewerke does need to find some new targets. Felton Davis, who caught just 12 passes for 150 yards, is the team’s top returning receiver. Sophomore Trishton Jackson is brimming with talent and other younger players like Darrell Stewart and Hunter Rison have talent too, but the unit needs to be consistent in order to help Lewerke develop into a dangerous passer. In the meantime, MSU will hope their stable of running backs can keep the offense moving. LJ Scott rushed for 994 yards as a sophomore in 2016 and Gerald Holmes and Madre London have all had good years with the Spartans in the past. Those three will work behind a decent offensive line led by senior center Brian Allen.
As painful as it was to watch the offense for Michigan State fans last year, the defense was much worse than what we have seen the previous seasons. The pass rush was non-existent and the team tallied a putrid 11 sacks on the year. Tackles Raequan Williams and Mike Panasiuk are young tackles with a lot of talent, but somebody needs to emerge as a consistent pass rushing threat on the edge. Another sophomore, Joe Bachie, will be a difference maker at linebacker. He has the potential to be the next star linebacker for Michigan State. Chris Frey is back after leading the team with 96 tackles in 2016 and Andrew Dowell added 67 tackles. Those three could make the linebackers the strength of this defense. The strength will almost certainly not be in the secondary where there will be four new starters on a unit that was less than impressive to begin with. Freshman cornerback Josiah Scott could be thrown right into the fire and join sophomore cornerback Justin Layne. The safeties should have a little more experience, but not as much potential.
The Bottom Line:
This will be an interesting season for Coach Mark Dantonio. Michigan State has to bounce back a little bit, but it is a long way to go for this program to return to the playoffs. With both Michigan and Ohio State on the road, any outside hopes of a Big Ten East title could disappear quickly. The good news is Michigan State gets to stay at home for their first four games and that should help a young team gain a little bit of confidence before the tougher games come in the heart of the season. Getting to a bowl game and remaining competitive against the top teams in the conference is a necessary step in the right direction.
Projected Bowl: Pinstripe Bowl
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 172.7 (65th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 222.3 (74, 5)
Total Offense: 395.0 (75, 6)
Scoring Offense: 24.1 (104, 12)
Rushing Defense: 158.7 (51, 9)
Pass Defense: 206.2 (36, 7)
Total Defense: 364.8 (32, 7)
Scoring Defense: 27.8 (61, 10)
Turnover Margin: -0.42 (98, 10)
Sacks: 0.92 (124, 14)
Sacks Allowed: 2.25 (81, 9)
Madness 2018 NFL Draft Rankings:
#84 Brian Allen
Madness 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#211 Matt Dotson
#243 Kevin Jarvis