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— In early April, just as Michigan State was set to begin spring practice, Macgarrett Kings found himself in the Ingham County jail.

The Spartans wide receiver had been pulled over for drunken driving and was about to be suspended for all of spring practice, something not exactly ideal for a receiver battling for playing time in a group crowded with playmakers.

But that's where the soon-to-be junior from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, found himself, and it wasn't long after that he realized he needed to make changes — to his attitude, approach and number.

"When I got back, I just tried to start something new," said Kings, who wears No. 85 after wearing No. 3 in his first two seasons. "(I wanted to) watch, listen and be more in tune with what coach (Terrence) Samuel was teaching and be more in tune with myself with what I was watching. It is a whole other focus. It's on a whole other level."

The results, while slow to come on the stat sheet, have been impressive to those watching closely, and more importantly, the staff.

"He's a lot more professional," Samuel said. "He definitely, with some of the things that happened, he has more appreciation for some of the gifts he has and he's been on time, taking care of business. ... I like the new 85."

The new 85 showed some of the spark he hoped to provide last week in a victory over Eastern Michigan. His only catch was for 18 yards and a first down, but he also ran the ball twice for 36 yards and had a 43-yard punt return.

It was a glimpse of what many expected from Kings after a solid 2013 season, when he finished with 43 catches for 513 yards and three touchdowns.

But that was put on hold because of the suspension. Kings wasn't allowed to take part in any team activities, so it was up to him to keep himself ready.

While he did work with strength coach Ken Mannie, he also studied plays on his IPad and made it a point to get together with Michigan State's quarterbacks — Connor Cook, Tyler O'Connor and Damion Terry — whenever he could.

"There was definitely an urgency to get timing down with those guys because I wasn't here in the spring," Kings said. "A lot of those other guys got an opportunity to do that with them, so I just wanted to get back out here. … I was asking could they throw with me, if they wanted to throw I'd be more than happy to come out and run routes for them. It was all about everybody getting better."

But getting better on the field was one step, and it wasn't the first. Getting better off it was a priority.

Kings said while he was burying himself in the playbook, he was just as focused on "improving myself as a person."

He credits Mannie with much of that work, and he applied his new attitude and approach to the game the minute preseason camp began.

"I'm listening more, becoming more of a student of the game," Kings said. "I wouldn't say I was a know-it-all kind of guy. ... Sometimes I thought I knew stuff because I was out there running routes and I was out there seeing the defenses change, but I was always coachable player but just not talking at all. I've really always been a quiet guy."

The change is starting to show on the field as Kings is slowly becoming a bigger part of the offense, and he enters this week's game against Wyoming as the co-starter at slot with R.J. Shelton.

He's also starting to feel more comfortable and having fun on the field.

"I don't really talk … well, I do talk a lot on the field," he said, laughing. "I talk a lot of trash."

It's all part of the new Kings blending with the same old confident playmaker the Spartans had become used to seeing.

"I was waiting for him to get his legs up underneath him," Samuel said. "I think he's got his legs and I think he's playing his best ball. I told him just the other day, 'That was the Macgarrett that left the Rose Bowl playing in this game.' I feel really good about where he is right now."

Wyoming at Michigan State

Kickoff: Noon Saturday, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing

TV/radio: ESPN2/WJR

Line: Michigan State by 28

Records: Wyoming 3-1, No. 9 Michigan State 2-1

Series: Michigan State leads 2-0 (Michigan State 34-16, Sept. 24, 1977)

Did you know? Wyoming and Michigan State had a common opponent — both lost to No. 2 Oregon.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/mattcharboneau

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