#21 Michigan State Football 2019 Preview

Michigan State Spartans
Overall Rank: #21
#5 Big Ten
 Michigan State Logo
The feeling at Michigan State is that the Spartans wasted a great defense in 2018 with a very disappointing offense. Injuries certainly played their part in the offensive disappointment, but it remains to be seen if the offense can do enough to take Michigan State back to double digits in the win column.
2018 Record: 7-6, 5-4
2018 Bowl: RedBox Bowl vs. Oregon (L 6-7)
Coach: Mark Dantonio (107-51 at Michigan State, 125-68 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Brad Salem
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Tressel
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Connor Heyward, RB, 529 yards
Passing: Brian Lewerke, QB, 2,040 yards
Receiving: Cody White, WR, 555 yards
Tackles: Joe Bachie, LB, 67
Sacks: Kenny Willekes, DE, 8.5
Interceptions: David Dowell, S, 2; Josiah Scott, CB, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB La’Darius Jefferson, QB Rocky Lombardi, WR Darrell Stewart, DT Raequan Williams, K Matt Coghlin
Key Losses: RB LJ Scott, WR Felton Davis, LB Andrew Dowell, S Khari Willis, CB Justin Layne, LB Jon Reschke
Brian Lewerke threw for 2,040 yards and eight touchdowns, but he completed just 54.3 percent of his pass attempts and was intercepted 11 times. Lewerke did play through an injury and he will need to stay healthy and play more like he did in 2017. Darrell Stewart and Cody White are talented receivers. Stewart led the team with 48 receptions, while White is a big-play threat on the outside. The ground game was an issue last season and could be again in 2019. Connor Heyward rushed for 529 yards and five touchdowns, while La’Darius Jefferson added 255 yards on 78 carries as a freshman. Freshmen Elijah Collins and Anthony Williams are quality options too, but somebody needs to step up and be the workhorse for Michigan State. Last year it never happened and the offense certainly suffered because of it.
The Spartans had the best run defense in the nation last season, allowing a mere 77.9 yards per game on the ground. Tackles Mike Panasiuk and Raequan Williams are back and they will again make this one of the best defenses against the run in the nation. The return of Kenny Willekes, who led the team with 8.5 sacks, suffered an injury in the RedBox Bowl, but that injury basically forced him back for his senior season. Joe Bachie leads an experienced group of linebackers. Bachie is not a flashy middle linebacker, but he has been very consistent. Josiah Scott is a proven and talented cornerback, while David Dowell has plenty of experience at free safety.
The Bottom Line:
The Spartans will make another bowl, which would be their 12th in Coach Mark Dantonio’s 13th season. But the Spartans have the defense to stay in every game on their schedule. The offense will need to take a big step forward though if they are going to beat teams like Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan on the road and compete for a Big Ten title.
Projected Bowl: TaxSlayer Bowl
2018 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 124.8 (114th in nation, 13th in conference)
Passing Offense: 217.2 (77, 8)
Total Offense: 342.1 (116, 13)
Scoring Offense: 18.7 (125, 13)
Rushing Defense: 77.9 (1, 1)
Pass Defense: 225.2 (62, 8)
Total Defense: 303.2 (10, 3)
Scoring Defense: 17.2 (8, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.08 (63, 7)
Sacks: 2.15 (63, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 2.00 (53, 6)
Madness 2020 NFL Draft Rankings:
#15 Kenny Willekes
Madness 2019 Recruit Rankings:
#54 Devontae Dobbs
#61 Julian Barnett