EAST LANSING - Michigan State is not expected to release its official spring practice depth chart until late March, shortly before the outset of spring drills on March 29.
With MSU being one of the last teams in the country to begin spring practice, SpartanMag.com aims to fill some of the dead air with an unofficial projected depth chart for the Spartans, as they prepare for spring practice '11.
The Spartan offense returns six starters from last year's Big Ten championship team: quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Edwin Baker, left guard Joel Foreman, right guard Chris McDonald, and wide receivers B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin.
Michigan State will have new starters at fullback, left tackle, right tackle, center and tight end on offense.
SpartanMag.com projects TyQuan Hammock, David Barrent, Jared McGaha, Ethan Ruhland and Brian Linthicum as the initial first-stringers at those vacated starting jobs. Of course, after 15 spring practice sessions, culminating in the Green-White Game on April 30, several of these positions could see changes in the depth chart.
Players to watch this spring include transplanted walk-on defensive end Todd Anderson at fullback, transplanted defensive tackle Blake Treadwell at center, and impressive sophomore offensive lineman Micajah Reynolds at multiple o-line positions. Redshirt freshman offensive tackle Skyler Schoefner is expected to be a factor at either offensive tackle position, most likely on the left side, as the Spartans await the arrival of junior college transfer Fou Fonoti this summer.
On defense, Michigan State returns six starters: left defensive end Tyler Hoover, nose tackle Kevin Pickelman, defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, star linebacker Chris Norman, field cornerback Johnny Adams, and field safety Trenton Robinson.
On defense, Michigan State will have new starters at right defensive end, middle linebacker, strongside linebacker, boundary cornerback and strong safety.
SpartanMag.com projects Denzel Drone, Max Bullough, Steve Gardiner, Darqueze Dennard and Isaiah Lewis as the leading contenders to get the first crack at filling those vacancies this spring.
Also keep an eye on sophomore Denicos Allen at star 'backer. If he emerges as the third-best linebacker in the program, the Spartans may have the luxury of moving Norman inside to the Sam linebacker position which was played by Eric Gordon last season.
Spring practice is a time for instruction, and also experimentation and training. Giving Norman time as one of the stacked inside backers might be something the coaching staff explores this spring as the Spartans need to manufacture depth and versatility at the position.
In the secondary, Adams could possibly move from field corner to boundary corner. Adams, (5-11, 170, Jr., Akron, Ohio) played boundary corner on several occasions last year. Also keep an eye on redshirt freshman Tony Lippett, who wowed coaches last fall with ability at cornerback and wide receiver. He is expected to settle at cornerback. Coaches almost pulled his redshirt last season when Rucker was suspended. Coaches felt Lippett was good enough to help at mid-year, but they opted to bank the year of eligibility.
Michigan State will also have a new punter in 2011, with walk-on senior Kyle Selden and redshirt freshman Mike Sadler expected to compete for the job vacated by the graduation of Aaron Bates.
SpartanMag.com will update the depth chart link after MSU releases its official list in late March.
(NOTE: The Spartan Plus pod cast linked above is just 15 minutes of this week's 1 hour, 10-minute edition of "The Briefing" pod cast. Spartan Plus e-Newsletter is the weekly supplement to SPARTAN Magazine, established in 1996. Go to www.spartanmagazineonline.com for subscription information.)