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Michigan State football: Grading position groups in spring 2023

Which MSU position group is the strongest?



Michigan State football
© Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

With the 2023 Michigan State football season months away, let’s dissect each position group and give them grades.

The Michigan State football team has an interesting roster this year. Some positions appear to have plenty of clarity as to who their starters will be, while for others, it’s anything but.

With the roster likely set after recruiting and portal cycle comes to a close, let’s take a look into this year’s roster and break down each position group.

Quarterback: B

After an excellent 2021 season in which he looked primed to easily lock down the position for the foreseeable future, Payton Thorne took a step back last season. His subpar play in 2022 — as well as the presence of former four-star recruit Katin Houser and backup Noah Kim — leaves the door open for a competition. It seems likely that any of the top three candidates can do a decent job, but can any of them be the gunslinger that MSU needs to compete?

Running Back: A-

Jalen Berger is still around after recording 683 yards on 4.6 yards per carry last year, and UConn transfer Nathan Carter has a ton of promise, totaling 405 yards on 6.2 yards per carry through only four games in 2022.

After the clear-cut top two backs, there’s some decent depth in Jaren Mangham, a transfer from USF with 1251 career rushing yards. If Carter is as advertised, though, look for him and Berger to form a potentially lethal one-two punch out of the backfield this year. This could be a fun group.

Wide Receiver: B+(ish)

This group is a mixed bag, but the team has a very solid top two in junior Keon Coleman and senior Tre Mosley. Coleman is a bonafide No. 1 receiver after a breakout 2022 season, and Mosley looks primed to take another step himself.

Nobody else in the wide receiver room has much meaningful experience, though (the loss of Germie Bernard hurts a lot), and while there’s definitely plenty of potential, nobody really has any clue how and if it will be realized. The group is solid for the time being, but they’re only an injury away from some potentially ugly football.

Tight End: B-

This group has a lot of bodies, but not a lot of proven players.

After losing Daniel Barker and Tyler Hunt, Michigan State football brought in numerous transfers from across the nation in Tyneil Hopper, Jaylan Franklin, and Ademola Faleye. There’s also four-star recruit Brennan Parachek as well as some other names mixed in.

As I see it, though, TE1 is 6-foot-5, 245-pound Maliq Carr, though, who looks primed for a breakout season. Carr has plenty of size, speed, and finds himself in a favorable situation with the opportunity to separate himself from the pack. Definitely keep an eye on him, but don’t overlook the rest of the room. When you have such an unproven group, everyone will be fighting to prove themselves and seize the role of top dog — it’s going to be fun to watch.

Offensive Line: B-

The offensive line was a highly suspect room for MSU in 2022. It’s part of the reason why the team’s rushing attack so often fell flat, and didn’t help Payton Thorne out too much, either.

Michigan State did gain a promising junior college transfer in Keyshawn Blackstock who will help bolster the line, but not a lot of other notable additions were made.

On paper, the interior of the line looks good: experienced senior Nick Samac at center, proven guard J.D. Duplain, and Blackstock at guard. The tackle spots may cause some real problems, though — the starters at those spots are anyone’s guess. If I were to put money on it, though, I’d wager that redshirt junior Brandon Baldwin may step in and solidify his place on the line, although I have no clue what to expect at the other tackle spot.

If players continue to develop and nobody takes a step back, this could actually be a pretty solid group in 2023, but it could also very easily be a laughingstock. It’s going to be a trial by fire.

Defensive Line: B+

The defensive line group at Michigan State has a lot of decent-looking players, but no standouts yet. The team did pick up a few defensive tackle transfers in Jarrett Jackson, Dre Butler, and former five-star recruit Tunmise Adeleye. There are plenty of promising freshman and sophomores in the group as well, mixed in with veterans like Simeon Barrow and Khris Bogle.

Michigan State did lose a few players to the portal, which is hardly ideal, but regardless, this seems like one of the stronger position groups on the team, even with Jacoby Windmon moving back to linebacker for the 2023 season.

There’s some decent depth here, and some exciting new blood. Like the tight ends, this will be a fun group to watch as it sorts itself out.

Linebacker: A+

I’m not sure if anyone would disagree that this is easily the strongest position group for the Spartans heading into the 2023 season. The team returns highly productive starter Cal Haladay (an All-Big Ten 2nd team selection last year), in addition to Aaron Brule, Jacoby Windmon, and former safety Darius Snow. That’s four excellent starters at a position which often only has two players on the field at a time.

That’s good.

There’s also a few other names, such as former four-star recruit Ma’a Gaoteote, and freshman Jordan Hall (who’s spoken very highly of around the program), providing even further depth.

I don’t know how the team will do as a whole this year, but rest assured that their linebacker room won’t be lacking.

Cornerback: D+

This is, very frustratingly, looking like a highly questionable group for the third year in a row. Junior Charles Brantley looked good at times, but he hardly answered all the questions, and there aren’t a lot of other notable names that come to mind.

This entire room is, honestly, a massive question mark from top to bottom.

Will young players step up and lock down their spots in the secondary? Will veterans finally turn the corner? Will the freshman make an real impact? Nobody really knows, but if the Spartans are going to compete in 2023, a lot of guys in this room are going to have to step up in a major fashion.

Safety: C+

Longtime starter Xavier Henderson graduated, which at first glance is worrying, but then again, maybe some new kids on the block will help shake up a routinely woeful pass defense.

The starters are probably going to be two former four-star recruits in sophomores Dillon Tatum and Jaden Mangham. Both players had their ups and downs in 2022, but are young players that fans should be  excited to watch grow.

I’m not sure how much to expect from this group in the 2023 season but, hey, we’ll have some fun.


This team, more than ever, has a lot of questions around it. And while it’s not awesome to know so little about what the first groups trotting out onto the field will look like, it’s not all bad. This Michigan State football roster, full of players that are anything but proven, is the perfect situation for young guys to step up and solidify their starting spots on the team, and that’s going to be fun to watch.

See y’all in September.


Mark Dantonio, 3 other Spartans on CFB Hall of Fame ballot

This one should be a no-brainer.



Mark Dantonio
© Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Former Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio, along with three other Spartans, are on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot.

It’s that time of the year when the College Football Hall of Fame releases its ballot and Mark Dantonio, along with three other Spartans, have made the cut for the 2024 class.

Dantonio is one of nine coaches on the ballot at the FBS level and Flozell Adams is one of five offensive linemen — he’s joined by former Michigan lineman Steve Hutchinson and the famous Michael Oher from Ole Miss. Four of the five offensive linemen on the ballot are from Big Ten schools. Darryl Rogers joins Dantonio as one of nine coaches and Gideon Smith is one of 32 coaches from the divisional ranks but he was a trailblazing player for the Spartans in 1915.

Many have been clamoring for Adams to make the Hall of Fame for years while Dantonio feels like a surefire selection and he compares favorably to the other coaches on the ballot.

Let’s take a look at his resume compared to the other FBS coaches on the ballot:

  • Dantonio: 132-74 career record, 7-6 bowl record, 3 Big Ten titles
  • Larry Blakeney: 178-113-1 career record, 2-3 bowl record, 8 conference titles
  • Jim Carlen: 107-69-3 career record, 2-5-1 bowl record, 1 SoCon title
  • Pete Cawthon Sr.: 98-50-10 career record, 0-2 bowl record, 2 conference titles
  • Larry Coker: 86-47 career record, 4-2 bowl record, 1 national title, 3 Big East titles
  • Ralph Friedgen: 75-50 career record, 5-2 bowl record, 1 ACC title
  • Darryl Rogers: 129-84-7 career record, 1-2 bowl record, 2 conference titles
  • Frank Solich: 173-101 career record, 7-9 bowl record, 1 Big 12 title
  • Tommy Tuberville: 159-99 career record, 7-6 bowl record, 2 conference titles

Compared to the others, Dantonio has the fourth-most all-time wins, he’s one of four with a winning bowl record, and he is tied for second-most conference titles.

Dantonio is credited for turning around the Michigan State football program after years of irrelevance. Following the departure of Nick Saban before the 2000 Citrus Bowl, Michigan State was a non-factor in the Big Ten. All Dantonio did was lead Michigan State back to the top of the conference and to its first playoff ever. He also won two BCS/New Year’s Six bowls.

This should be a no-brainer.

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Mark Dantonio lists top favorite 25 plays during his MSU tenure (Video)

This is an awesome list.



Mark Dantonio
© Jarrad Henderson, Detroit Free Press, Detroit Free Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Former Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio carefully chose his top 25 favorite plays during his tenure.

Former Michigan State Football coach Mark Dantonio is arguably the greatest coach in program history. Dantonio is highly regarded by all Michigan State fans even with the poor state the program was in when he retired. He gave us some of our programs greatest moments in history. Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, College Football Playoff and countless massive regular season wins are just a few of the great moments he brought us.

Recently Dantonio sat down with Michigan State and the Big Ten Network. During this meeting, Dantonio gave his Top 25 plays during his Michigan State tenure. This list was made solely by Mark Dantonio. He not only looked at the play itself, but also the impact it had on our program.

Lets dive into them 25-1:

25. Brian Lewerke TD to Madre London at Michigan (2017)

In a game that Michigan State was not expected to win, this was a perfectly run screen pass that scored easily with two linemen leading the way.

24. Connor Cook game-winning TD pass in Cotton Bowl (2015)

This game is one of the greatest in Michigan State history. Michigan State defeated Baylor in the Cotton Bowl after being down by 20 points in the fourth quarter. This pass was the game-winning touchdown in this classic.

23. Brian Hoyer third TD pass to Devin Thomas vs. Penn State (2007)

The play itself seemed pretty normal on its own. But three touchdowns to the same receiver in a win against Penn State definitely deserves to be on this list.

22. Three touchdown runs vs. Michigan

Nothing is sweeter than scoring against Michigan. In the No. 22 spot, Dantonio selected three key touchdown runs in wins against Michigan over the years. This includes touchdown runs from Edwin Baker, LeVeon Bell, and Jeremy Langford.

21. Three touchdowns vs. Wisconsin (2011)

This game is another all time classic in Michigan State history. This selection includes two touchdowns from Keshawn Martin and one from BJ Cunningham. These massive plays all helped setup the magical ending to this game. More to come later on this one.

20. Three interceptions for touchdowns

Dantonio selected three interceptions that were returned for touchdowns in the No. 20 spot. The first was by Darqueze Dennard in the 2012 Outback Bowl victory against Georgia. The other two were massive in big wins over Michigan. Dantonio prioritized the Michigan game ever year, so it is no surprise seeing plays against them all over this list.

19. Game-winning FG vs. Wisconsin (2008)

This game was not as big as others, but a game winning field goal is always exciting. In this one, Brett Swenson hit a 44-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Badgers.

18. Defensive stop to beat Iowa (2008)

I always think defensive plays deserve more love. In this selection, Adam Decker stops Iowa on fourth-and-1 to seal a Spartan victory over the Hawkeyes.

17. Fake punt at Iowa (2013)

Mike Sadler is one of the greatest punters in Michigan State history. In this play, he showed off his legs in a different way. To start the fourth quarter, he successfully ran for 20 yards to pick up a key first down in a very tight game.

16. Another TD run at Michigan (2008)

This play was one of the biggest in this rivalries history. A long run by Javon Ringer helped lead Michigan State to victory for the first time in Ann Arbor since 1990.

15. Blocked FG in 3OT Outback Bowl vs. Georgia (2012)

Another special teams play, this time a blocked field goal in triple-overtime to beat Georgia in the Outback Bowl. I believe winning this game was a turning point for our program, and this play sealed the win.

14. Acrobatic interception vs. Iowa (2015)

Everyone remembers how unbelievable this play was. In the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game, Demetrius Cox pulled off an interception I have never seen before. After a fellow teammate broke up the pass in the end zone, the ball ended up lying on his back. Cox saw the ball, scooped it off his teammates back and helped kill a promising Hawkeyes drive.

13. Negative-48 rushing yards vs. Michigan (2013)

This is another combination of multiple plays. In Michigan States 2013 domination over Michigan, the Spartans’ defense held Michigan to negative-48 rushing yards. Yes, you read that correctly. That is a number I doubt we ever see again.

12. Larry Caper TD run vs. Michigan (2009)

Larry Caper’s 24-yard overtime touchdown run is one of my personal favorite plays of all time. Nothing about the play itself was memorable, but the meaning behind it is everything. This was the first time Michigan State won consecutive games over the Wolverines since 1967. This game also helped springboard the Spartans into their dominant run over Michigan.

11. Brian Hoyer TD pass to Blair White at Michigan (2008)

Another memorable play against, you guessed it, Michigan. This was a 61-yard pass from Brian Hoyer to Blair White early in the first quarter to help the Spartans defeat their in-state rivals again.

10. Connor Cook TD pass to Tony Lippett in Rose Bowl (2014)

The greatest stage in all of college football saw the Spartans beat Stanford in the 100th Rose Bowl. This touchdown pass ending up being the game-winning score in one of the greatest games in program history.

9. Blocked FG in Cotton Bowl vs. Baylor (2015)

This is another play from Michigan State’s historic comeback win against Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. Marcus Rush blocked the Baylor field goal attempt to keep Michigan State only down by six. This setup the game-winning drive at the end of the fourth quarter.

8. Walk-off Hail Mary vs. Wisconsin (2011)

This is another iconic moment in Spartan Stadium history. As time expired, Kirk Cousins threw a Hail Mary touchdown pass to Keith Nichol to upset the Badgers.

7. Jeremy Langford TD run vs. Ohio State (2013)

In the 2013 Big Ten Championship game vs Ohio State, Jeremy Langford sealed the Spartans victory with this long touchdown run. This touchdown put the Spartans up by 10 with two minutes left in the game, ending Ohio States chances and clinching a trip to the Rose Bowl.

6. Walk-off FG at Ohio State (2015)

This play not being higher shocks me. On a night when star quarterback Connor Cook was out injured, Michigan State was still able to pull off the upset road win against Ohio State. Michael Geiger knocked in the winning field goal as time expired. Afterwards, he celebrated with his iconic windmill celebration that I’m sure you all are replicating right now.

5. Little Giants (2010)

I would argue this play is easily the best play call in Dantonio’s career. In overtime against Notre Dame, Michigan State lined up for the tying field goal to force a second overtime. Instead, they faked the field goal, threw the touchdown pass and the rest is history.

4. Trouble with the Snap (2015)

I, for one, am shocked this play isn’t No. 1. Do I even need to remind you what this play is? Jalen Watts-Jackson returned the muffed Michigan punt for a touchdown in 2015 as time expired to win the game. This play will be remembered forever.

3. Game-winning TD vs. Iowa (2015)

Who can forget the iconic final drive against Iowa in the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game. In a drive that was 22 plays long and took over nine minutes, LJ Scott capped it off with his short touchdown run. The mantra that season was “reach higher” and that’s exactly what he did on the run to avoid a Hawkeye tackler. College Football Playoff, here we come.

2. Fourth-down stop vs. Ohio State (2013)

This is the play when we knew we were Rose Bowl bound. Denicos Allen stopped Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller on fourth down to seal the Spartans victory. I always think defensive plays deserve more credit and I’m glad Dantonio put this play so high on his list.

1. Rose Bowl-clinching stop (2014)

Did you guess this play was coming? Kyler Elsworth’s fourth-down stop against Stanford in the 2014 Rose Bowl is Mark Dantonio’s top play from his tenure. There is no bigger non-playoff stage in college football than the Rose Bowl, so it is no surprise to see the game-winning play at No. 1.

To see the full list on Twitter with a video highlight of each play, click the link below.

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Michigan State football: Washington game time, channel announced

Fans won’t be too thrilled about the channel.



Michigan State football
© Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington vs. Michigan State football rematch is on Sept. 16, and the Spartans have revenge on their minds.

The game time for the Washington vs. Michigan State football game was just announced and is one I think most Michigan State fans will be happy with. The game will kick off at 5 p.m. ET on Sept. 16.

This is a great start time for Michigan State fans. That will give fans plenty of time to travel to East Lansing, enjoy a tailgate and get into the stadium. On top of that, the game will get down around 8 p.m. ET which is good for the crowd that does not like to be out late.

However, I think a lot of fans were hoping for a noon start time in this game. A noon start would have been a 9 a.m. local time for Washington, likely giving the Spartans a slight advantage. It’s no surprise seeing this big of a game scheduled in the evening to avoid that.

On top of the game time announcement, where the game will be aired on TV was also announced. This is where the good news ends. The Spartans game against Washington will only be available for streaming on Peacock. That means Spartan fans at home will have to pay to watch this game. However, a simple Google search showed me that Peacock currently only costs $20 for the entire year. A lot of Big Ten football and basketball games will only be available on Peacock this season, so that may not be a bad investment to make right now if you can.

What would a win mean for Michigan State football?

Michigan State will have revenge on its mind in this game. Washington beat the Spartans last season in Seattle 39-28. The game however did not feel that close. Michigan State made a late comeback to make the final score look respectable, but a lot of fans will tell you we never really stood a chance.

Washington will likely be a top 10 heading into this matchup, so Michigan State has a great opportunity in front of it. A win would would help spring the Spartans into the conference season with a lot of positive momentum.

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