Running back battle brews for Green-White game
East Lansing — Michigan State will wrap up spring practice today with its annual Green and White game at Spartan Stadium and there will be plenty of storylines to follow.
The Spartans are coming off a second straight top-five finish in the country and will once again be contending for a Big Ten championship when they kick off the 2015 season Sept. 4 at Western Michigan.
But there will be changes and today's game will be the first chance to see what the Spartans might look like in the fall. Here are five things to watch today:
Running back battle
After running for nearly 3,000 yards and 40 touchdowns over the past two seasons, Jeremy Langford is off to the NFL. Who will try and fill those shoes, the way Langford did two years ago following Le'Veon Bell, will be a competition that likely goes into preseason camp.
Redshirt freshman Madre London and sophomore Gerald Holmes will get the bulk of the work during the spring game and have been splitting No. 1 reps over the last few weeks.
Each has shown flashes and London ran for more than 100 yards in the second scrimmage, but they'll have to contend with incoming freshman L.J. Scott in the fall, a highly touted player who will be given plenty of opportunity.
Not only did Michigan State lose cornerback Trae Waynes, who will likely be a No. 1 pick in next week's NFL draft, but they also lost safety Kurtis Drummond.
The battle in the secondary has been one of the more intriguing ones this spring as fifth-year senior RJ Williamson and sophomore Montae Nicholson are the probable starters at safety while junior Demetrious Cox, who has played primarily safety, has been playing that position and cornerback.
Junior Jermaine Edmondson and fifth-year senior Arjen Colquhoun have had good springs, as has redshirt freshman Vayante Copeland.
Former starter Darian Hicks, who will be a junior, is also in the mix in a crowded defensive backfield that is looking for its next set of playmakers.
The Spartans watched plenty of production head to the NFL with the departure of Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery, but there is no lack of talent in the receiving corps.
Which players establish themselves as go-to targets for Connor Cook will become a bit clearer in the spring game, though senior Aaron Burbridge isn't expected to play because of an undisclosed injury.
He will not doubt get his share of time in the fall, as will senior Macgarrett Kings Jr. and junior R.J. Shelton.
One player to keep an eye on today is junior Monty Madaris, a player who came to Michigan State with plenty of promise but has had trouble staying healthy. Fifth-year senior A.J. Troup will also get his share of work and DeAnthony Arnett will get another shot to prove he can be a consistent contributor as he heads into his final season.
Tight end twosome
Junior Josiah Price is coming off an All-Big Ten honorable mention season and has 43 catches and 10 touchdowns in his career.
But he was the second tight end selected in the spring draft, behind fellow junior Jamal Lyles.
The opinions of the seniors don't always mesh with the coaching staff, but Lyles has been producing all spring and could be on the verge of a breakout season.
He had 57 yards receiving and a touchdown in the second scrimmage of the spring.
If the athletic, former defensive end reaches the potential the Michigan State coaches believes he possesses, the Spartans could have a potent tight end combination for the next two seasons.
Quest for 50
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio has been campaigning hard for 50,000 fans to show up at Spartan Stadium, saying it's the next step for a program that has established itself as a national contender.
The East Lansing forecast is for cloudy skies and a high of 53 degrees, which doesn't exactly help the effort, especially considering last year's mark of roughly 35,000 fans was the high mark for the Spartans.
There certainly won't be the 90,000-plus that showed up at Ohio State's spring game and Michigan drew more than 60,000 on a warm spring day, but it will be interesting to see of Dantonio's push to make the spring game an "event" will pay off.
Green and White game
Kickoff: 2 p.m. Saturday, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
Free youth clinic: Kids 8-12 meet from 10-11:30 a.m. on field behind the Duffy Daugherty Football Building.
Honorary captains: Basketball players Travis Trice (White) and Matt Costello (Green).