Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News identifies five developments to follow on Michigan State’s offense as the season gets underway.
Right side of the line: The Spartans bring back plenty of experience on the offensive line, but the right side still remains up in the air as the season draws closer. Fifth-year senior Connor Kruse was expected to start at guard, but an injury in preseason camp has knocked him out of the lineup, forcing junior right tackle Donavon Clark to move inside. Clark has started six games at left tackle and is making the adjustment to the right side. Sophomore Kodi Kieler gets the first shot at right tackle, the only player up front without a start. Junior college transfer Miguel Machado will also get a shot to see the field.
Wide receiver race: A couple of years ago, wide receiver was a big concern for the Spartans. Now it’s as deep a position as they have, and the battle for playing time will be an intriguing one. Seniors Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery will get consistent playing time, as will juniors Aaron Burbridge, who is coming off a disappointing sophomore season, and Macgarrett Kings, who is coming back from a spring suspension. Sophomore R.J. Shelton will also become a bigger part of the offense while junior DeAnthony Arnett is closer to being a key contributor. Junior Andre Sims, sophomore Monty Madaris and junior A.J. Troup could also figure in at some point this season.
Tight end a strength again: Tight end is becoming a rarity in college football these days, but that’s not the case at Michigan State. After entering last season with plenty of question marks at the position, the Spartans feel they have plenty of weapons heading into 2014. Sophomore Josiah Price has a solid freshman season in 2013 and proved to be one of quarterback Connor Cook’s favorite targets while senior Andrew Gleichert is as steady as they come. The Spartans are also expecting big things from sophomore Jamal Lyles, as well as redshirt freshman Dylan Chmura.
Backup running back: There’s no doubt who will get the bulk of the carries for the Spartans as Jeremy Langford enters his senior season having run for more than 1,400 yards and 18 touchdowns last year. But who will get the rest of the work has been an interesting battle throughout camp. Fifth-year senior Nick Hill has always been steady, but the most potential could lie in the young backs. Sophomore Delton Williams played as a true freshman but has been slowed by injuries dating back to the spring. In the meantime, redshirt freshman Gerald Holmes and true freshman Madre London are making the most of their opportunities. Both have played well in camp and London has a real shot at contributing in his first fall on campus.
Who’s behind Cook? Just a year after the quarterback battle dominated preseason camp, the only suspense at this point is which player will back up Connor Cook, who emerged last season as a potential star, winning MVP honors in the Big Ten championship game and the Rose Bowl. Sophomore Tyler O’Connor and redshirt freshman Damion Terry have been neck-and-neck throughout camp and both might get a shot early in the season. O’Connor is the only one with experience but Terry arguably has more athleticism. It will likely only be an issue in the event of an injury to Cook, but the Spartans will be wise to make sure they have one or both backups ready to take over.