Michigan State football enters the season as one of the Big Ten’s best and most talented teams. Let’s dive into a projected depth chart.
The Michigan State football season is finally here and while we have plenty of great quotes from Mel Tucker to feast on from the past few weeks, we have no official depth chart.
Getting that weekly depth chart before games was always something to look forward to in the Mark Dantonio era but Tucker plays things much closer to the vest. While neither ever revealed too much, Tucker doesn’t like to give opponents an advantage.
And there are probably some surprises on his depth chart. Heck, we had no idea Cal Haladay was even in the playing rotation before last season when he took the field as a starter.
Will there be any major surprises when Michigan State football takes the field on Friday vs. Western Michigan? Probably.
Here’s what I think the two-deep depth chart may look like ahead of Week 1.
Starter: Payton Thorne
Backup: Noah Kim OR Katin Houser
This one’s obvious as Thorne broke the single-season passing touchdown record last year, but there’s really no clarity behind him. I think Houser is more talented, but Kim has more experience and he drew some praise in preseason camp.
Starter: Jarek Broussard
Backup: Jalen Berger
There’s plenty of depth here even with the loss of Kenneth Walker III and we have the transfer portal to thank. I see Broussard as the Walker-lite type of back and for that, I think he starts. But I do think Berger is a perfect complement to him and will have some big games. Not a bad one-two punch.
Starters: Jayden Reed, Tre Mosley, Keon Coleman
Backups: Germie Bernard, Christian Fitzpatrick, Montorie Foster
The starting receivers are arguably a top-three trio in the Big Ten. Reed is going to have another 1,000-yard season if he can stay healthy, Mosley is the most underrated pass-catcher on the team, and Coleman is going to have a breakout year. Behind these three are three very capable backups, featuring Bernard. This group is going to take a lot of pressure off of Thorne.
Starter: Daniel Barker
Backup: Maliq Carr OR Tyler Hunt
Barker is a legit NFL draft prospect at tight end and he could really flourish in this offense. From all accounts, he’s made everyone in the tight end room better this season, including Carr who has reportedly improved his blocking. We’ll see plenty of Carr and Hunt behind Barker.
Starters: Jarrett Horst (LT), JD Duplain (LG), Nick Samac (C), Geno VanDeMark (RG), Spencer Brown (RT)
Backups: Brandon Baldwin, Brian Greene, Dallas Fincher, Matt Carrick, Ethan Boyd
Assuming everyone stays healthy, Michigan State should have a better offensive line this season. Horst, Duplain, Samac, VanDeMark, and Brown would make the best starting group, in my opinion, but you could also switch Greene and either of the guards. Injuries are a nightmare scenario in this group because of the lack of depth.
Starting ends: Brandon Wright, Khris Bogle
Backups: Jeff Pietrowski, Tank Brown
Bogle is the crown jewel at defensive end and his potential on the edge is endless. He came over from Florida this offseason to replace Jacub Panasiuk. On the other side, I see Wright getting the nod over Pietrowski. If you watched the Peach Bowl, you saw flashes of what he could do on the edge and it was scary good. Pietrowski is still a really good option along with Brown.
Starting tackles: Jacob Slade, Simeon Barrow
Backups: Jalen Hunt, Derrick Harmon
Slade is the obvious star on the defensive line and one of the best interior linemen in the nation. Joining him will be the underrated Simeon Barrow who I believe is going to have a huge year. Hunt was supposed to break out last year and could never really stay healthy so maybe he’ll do better in a backup role this season. Harmon has been drawing a lot of praise this preseason, but Maverick Hansen, Dashaun Mallory, or Alex VanSumeren could easily back up Slade and Barrow, too.
Starters: Jacoby Windmon, Cal Haladay OR Aaron Brule
Backup: Darius Snow, Ma’a Gaoteote
I’ve been big on Windmon all offseason and I think he brings that elite pass-rushing from the linebacker position over from UNLV. But Haladay and Brule are both going to play meaningful snaps this season and it’d be hard to pick between either one. I know, Haladay started last year, but Michigan State has three legit starting linebackers (maybe actually 4-5) so Tucker can roll with whoever. I also really like Snow to have a big season here and we should hear Gaoteote’s name plenty.
Starting cornerbacks: Ameer Speed, Ronald Williams
Backups: Charles Brantley, Marqui Lowery
Michigan State football had the worst passing defense, in terms of yards allowed, last year. The cornerbacks need to step up, led by two SEC transfers. Speed started at Georgia last year and Williams was a projected starter at Alabama before getting hurt two years ago. Both should be solid. Behind them are Brantley (who is finally healthy) and Lowery.
Starting nickelback: Chester Kimbrough
Backup: AJ Kirk
For the starter, I have to go with last year’s nickel in Kimbrough even though he struggled mightily. He’s only going to get better here. However, for the backup, I’m going with who I want since we have heard next to nothing about anyone other than Kimbrough here. Kirk is in his second year and I think he could either be a really solid safety or a nickel but I’ll lean toward the latter this season. It could also be Justin White or Lowery.
Starting safeties: Xavier Henderson, Angelo Grose
Backups: Jaden Mangham, AJ Kirk
The starters here are obvious as Henderson is an All-Big Ten caliber safety and Grose showed flashes last year when he was fully healthy. I could see these guys having really good seasons. Behind them are a freshman and an unproven second-year player. Honestly, an injury would be devastating here.
Kicker: Ben Patton OR Jack Stone
Jack Stone could easily win the job, but I think Tucker brought in Auburn transfer Ben Patton because he was so unsure about the starter. I’d love to see Stone trot out there as the starting kicker, but we won’t have clarity here for a few weeks, I’m sure.
Kick/punt returner: Jayden Reed
This requires little to no explanation. Reed is one of the best return men in college football.
Punter: Bryce Baringer
Another one that doesn’t need an explanation. Baringer is one of the best punters in the country.
Do you agree or disagree with anyone on this projected depth chart?