'He's going to be a guy for us': MSU linebacker Chase Kline turning heads in workouts
Whenever Michigan State gets back on the football field, there will be plenty of new faces contributing for the Spartans’ defense.
Eight starters were lost from a year ago, creating plenty of holes from the interior of the line to the back end of the secondary. And right in the middle, at linebacker, Michigan State will be forced to replace some highly productive players with Joe Bachie off to the NFL and Tyriq Thompson graduated.
Even with Bachie missing the final five games, the tandem combined for 146 tackles last season and over the course of the previous four years, piled up 408 stops with Bachie starting 34 of 40 career games and Thompson starting 25 of 48.
That’s a significant void for linebackers coach Ross Els to fill, a task made at least a bit easier due to the presence of senior Antjuan Simmons. The versatile team leader can play just about anywhere, but even in Michigan State’s limited workouts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there is one player who is standing out.
“As far as young guys, Chase Kline has really made huge improvements,” Simmons said. “He had a good fall camp with all the workouts. He's really looking like a dude for us, looking like he's going to be a guy for us.”
It’s high praise coming from Simmons, who hasn’t missed a game in his three seasons with the Spartans and can play any linebacker position. An outside backer by trade, Simmons helped fill in last season when Bachie was suspended and helped hold the position group together, doing his best to help some of the younger players like Kline, Jeslord Boateng and Noah Harvey progress quickly.
But it has been Kline who has truly been separating himself, according to Simmons.
“Noah Harvey is returning back and Jeslord Boateng and all the young guys, they're all going good, they're all learning the system,” Simmons said. “Everybody's going good, but Chase Kline is really starting to make a name for himself within the program, so I'm excited to see what he's going to do in the future.”
Kline (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) came to Michigan State as a four-star recruit from Chardon, Ohio. With that ranking came expectations he’d contribute quickly. However, a shoulder injury that required surgery was suffered during preseason camp and led to a redshirt in 2018.
By the spring of 2019, however, Kline was 100-percent healthy and had a team-high eight tackles in Michigan State’s spring game.
“With the linebacker group definitely Jeslord Boateng, Noah Harvey…those are guys that are definitely coming along and making big strides,” then-head coach Mark Dantonio said. “Chase Kline, you know, he's really surprised a lot of people.”
It appears no one is surprised anymore that Kline is rapidly moving up the depth chart and will be pushing for a starting spot this season. He appeared in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman in 2019, recording 12 tackles and a sack and showing some burst from the edge as a pass rusher.
That’s a position he will likely be pushing to see plenty of snaps at when Michigan State’s season resumes. With Harvey a candidate to move to the middle and Simmons at STAR linebacker — the position names could change under new coach Mel Tucker and defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton — Kline and Boateng, a third-year sophomore, could both get plenty of snaps at the SAM linebacker spot.
It’s a group Els felt good about in the spring.
“Obviously with Antjuan coming back — smartest guy in the room,” Els said. “Runs the best, I do know that. Fearless leader. Glad to have him back — he was the leading tackler, so that's obviously a good thing. I know Noah Harvey has had some good reps, was in a lot of plays last year, so I'm excited to see what Noah can do. Then you've got a couple of other guys who are sprinkled in there, Jeslord Boateng, Chase Kline and then a whole bunch of other dudes that haven't played yet.
“It's going to be interesting.”