2007 Record: 7-6 (3-5 Big Ten) Head Coach: Mark Dantonio
Devin Thomas - WR - Round 2 - Washington
Kellen Davis - TE - Round 5 - Chicago
Ervin Baldwin - DE - Round 7 - Chicago
Steve Gardiner - LB - 6’1” - 205 - Dublin, OH
Keshawn Martin - WR - 6’0” - 180 - Westland, MI
Fred Smith - WR - 6’2” - 210 - Detroit, MI
Tyler Hoover - DE - 6’7” - 270 - Novi, MI
Jerel Worthy - DT - 6’3” - 290 - Huber Heights, OH
Ethan Ruhland - OL - 6’6” - 270 - Lake Orion, MI
Anthony Woods - OL - 6’3” - 305 - Melvindale, MI
Caulton Ray - RB - 5’9” - 185 - Birmingham, MI
Charles Burrell - DB - 6’2” - 205 - Detroit, MI
Key Players Returning: Javon Ringer - RB - Sr.
Justin Kershaw - DT - Sr.
Brian Hoyer - QB - Sr.
Roland Martin - OG - Sr.
Jesse Miller - OT - Sr.
Otis Wiley - S - Jr.
Mark Dell - WR - Soph.
Joel Nitchman - C - Jr.
Greg Jones - LB - Soph.
Eric Gordon - LB - Soph.
Kendall Davis-Clark - CB - Sr.
Brian Hoyer showed he has the capability to lead a balanced attack offense which builds off of the run, and he will have the backfield behind him again this year to continue his progress. Hoyer threw for 2,725 yards and 20 touchdowns in his first season at the helm of the Spartan offense, but consistency is still an issue. His four interception performance against Boston College in the Champs Sports Bowl is a reflection of the inconsistency, but Hoyer will grow from that game and be more productive in 2008.
Senior RB Javon Ringer is arguably one of the top five backs in the nation, and the loss of Jehuu Caulcrick may lead more goal line carries for Ringer in 2008. Ringer ran for 1,484 yards last season and six touchdowns. Caulcrick scored 21 touchdowns. Ringer has the size to pound the ball and the speed to break the big run which he showed on an 80-yarder against Northwestern last season. Junior A.J. Jimmerson will be used to keep Ringer fresh throughout the season. Redshirt Freshman Ashton Leggett could emerge as a power back in short yardage situations, but this is Ringer’s senior year and he will be primed to lead the attack.
Hoyer’s top two targets from last season have moved on to the NFL. WR Devin Thomas and TE Kellen Davis were both NFL draft picks, and the two caught 14 of Hoyer’s 20 touchdowns. Mark Dell, a sophomore, should emerge as the new number one receiver in 2008. Dell caught 20 passes for 220 yards with 2 touchdowns as a freshman. Senior Deon Curry is another decent sized target and snagged 24 passes last season. B.J. Cunningham has been impressive in preparation for the 2008 season and could become the breakout receiver of the group. Replacing production from Davis’s TE spot will be difficult. Sophomore Charlie Gannt is a big blocking TE, but does not possess the athleticism Davis had to be a major receiving threat.
The offensive line will have three returning starters in center Joel Nitchman, tackle Jesse Miller, and guard Roland Martin. Miller and Martin are seniors and have been paving the way for Ringer in the past. Nitchman, a junior, started seven games last season. Junior Rocco Cironi will start at LT, but does not have a wealth of experience. Junior Brendan Moss is a possibility at RG, but redshirt freshman Joel Foreman has impressed coaches during spring practices to put himself in the mix to earn the starting position.
Dantonio’s new attitude defense put the Spartans in the upper tier of the Big Ten last season. The defense ranked fourth in the conference in stopping both the run and the pass. The Spartans lost key talent up front and just one starter returns on the defensive line. Senior DT Justin Kershaw started last season and recorded 1.5 sacks, but his leadership will be beneficial for the Spartans. Sophomores Oren Wilson and Antonio Jeremiah provide big bodies to mix in at nose tackle. The defensive ends bring some experience with junior transfer Trevor Anderson. Anderson is ready for action after sitting out last season due to his transfer from Cincinnati. Anderson has starting experience, and senior Brandon Long notched two sacks in limited playing time last year.
Sophomores Greg Jones and Eric Gordon return at linebacker after nice seasons starting last year. Jones will be featured at MLB and provides good speed in the middle of the field. Jones led the team with 78 tackles in 2007 and added 4.5 sacks. Gordon made 62 tackles last year and disrupts plays in the backfield. The final LB spot is still up in the air. Junior Brandon Denson made a strong showing in spring practices, but the former walk-on is still learning the position after switching from offense to defense. Sophomore Jon Misch and senior Ryan Allison provide depth.
The defensive secondary has two senior starters returning in safety Otis Wiley and CB Kendall Davis-Clark. Wiley struggled at times last year, but led the Spartans with four interceptions. Davis-Clark emerged last season as a quality corner with speed to stay with fast receivers. Davis-Clark broke up eight passes in 2007. Junior Ross Weaver has fully recovered from an ankle injury that sidelined him for the entire 2006 season and is expected to start opposite Davis-Clark at CB. Junior Roderick Jenrette brings a physical presence in the secondary at FS.
Michigan State Special Teams
The kicking game needs to improve to help keep the Spartans in games. Junior kicker Brett Swenson had a decent 2007, but will look for more consistency after hitting 15 of 22 field goals. Sophomore Aaron Bates will need to improve after averaging just 39.7 yards per punt last season. Senior Todd Boleski has a powerful leg and will kickoff.
Sophomore Mark Dell will be used to return punts and kickoffs. Dell can serve as a playmaker on returns but may receive a break occasionally since he is starting as receiver.
2008 MSU Football Prediction
Mark Dantonio had successful first season guiding the Spartans to seven wins, but two overtime losses could have put Michigan State at nine wins. The fans in East Lansing have been yearning for a breakout year from their Spartans, but the chips would have to fall just right to keep the Spartans in the hunt. Defensively, Michigan State is much improved with Dantonio leading the charge. Although, despite having one of the best running backs in the nation, the Spartans are just below the upper-tier of teams in the Big Ten. Their schedule is tough. Most Big Ten teams schedule an easy game to start the season, but the Spartans open at California. They follow with six winnable games before they meet Ohio State. The biggest game of the year is at Michigan, and Spartan fans would love to knock off the Wolverines this year amidst all their changes. The Spartans are a wild card when it comes to the Big Ten. They could knock off the best team and then lose to the worst. Consistency is what Dantonio needs to instill at Michigan State.