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Michigan State football: Projected playing time for offensive freshmen

How much will the newcomers play?

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Michigan State football
© Junfu Han via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Michigan State football has their 2024 class mostly settled. Why not make too early projections for if each player will see the field early?

With the transfer portal mostly settled for the time being, and spring practice a long way out, I believe it is time to look back on the 2024 Michigan State football signing class. After a rough start to the class, mostly due to the Mel Tucker scandal that resulted in his firing, the Spartans rebounded quite nicely.

With a bit under a month until the second signing period, Michigan State stands at No. 38 in the recruiting class rankings. Considering that class was flirting with a triple-digit number at the start of December, not bad for Jonathan Smith and Co.

Without any further ado, I believe it is time to make some too-early predictions that I am positive will age like milk.

Note: Kekai Burnett, Justin Denson, and Brady Pretzlaff will not be on this list, as they will be featured in my articles on defensive signees. Both athletes in this class (Brinson IV, K. Williams) were introduced as defensive backs, and will also be in that edition. Also, kicker Martin Connington has not officially signed his paperwork as a Spartan. He and Jadyn Walker, along with any other late cycle additions, will be featured in February.

  • Nick Marsh, WR

WR outlook

Losing: Tre Mosley, Christian Fitzpatrick, Tyrell Henry, Sebastian Brown
Returning: Montorie Foster Jr., Jaron Glover, Alante Brown (?), Antonio Gates Jr., Aziah Johnson, Jaelen Smith
Adding: TJ Sheffield, Austin Clay

Nick Marsh was a recruit that Spartan fans already love. The talented receiver committed to Michigan State football in July of 2022, and then opened up his recruiting last spring. After weighing his options over the summer, he re-affirmed his commitment to MSU. With Smith retaining Courtney Hawkins, Marsh locked in his commitment.

Marsh was the gem of this class, coming in ranked No. 104 by 247Sports. The overall ranking on Marsh is much similar, as the Composite places Marsh at No. 115. He was a prospect that was highly coveted by a multitude of schools, but the receiver fell in love with the campus and the coaching of Hawkins. He signed on with the Spartans in the face of 38 other offers, including the likes of Penn State, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Oregon.

The four-star receiver brings the highly coveted mix of size (6-foot-3) and speed. The three-sport athlete was a nightmare against Michigan Division I state runner-up Belleville High School this fall, with River Rouge being the only school to keep it close against the Tigers until the state title game. Marsh scored three touchdowns, with one on the kick return and two rushing. Considering that Belleville was in the midst of a winning streak spanning over 30 games, Marsh was the best player on field.

Prediction

Currently, I expect to see Marsh to slot in as an instant impact player. The Spartans lose a decent amount of production from their 2023 roster, with the aforementioned quartet gone before the spring roster turnover. Additionally, Marsh is already enrolled and taking classes at MSU, meaning the staff will get a great look at him in a few months. At the bare minimum, I see Marsh having a similar season to Germie Bernard’s 2022 Spartan season. Bernard posted seven catches for 128 yards and a pair of touchdowns, along with one starting assignment in his true freshman campaign.

Marsh has arguably the highest ceiling of any player in the current room right now. Jaron Glover had a few flashy games last year, and Foster has been a consistent player with a few great performances a season since 2021. With Brown’s status unknown, there is a huge fall off in playing time from Foster to the rest of the group. Based on the last image of Marsh at winter training, it appears that is the case. He is wearing shorts marked No. 0, which Brown wore last season.

The top five receivers, assuming Brown leaves, would be an order of Foster, Sheffield, Marsh, Glover, and Gates Jr. I think Marsh sees the field early and often. It would be a shock to see a redshirt season.

  • Rustin Young, OT

OT outlook

Losing: Spencer Brown, Evan Brunning
Returning: Brandon Baldwin, Ethan Boyd, Braden Miller, Stanton Ramil, Ashton Lepo, Jacob Merritt, Andy Hartman
Adding: Mercer Luniewski, Payton Stewart, Luke Newman

Rustin Young is an interesting case. The tackle from Hawaii is extremely highly rated by 247Sports, being rated no. 215 in the class and the top player in state. The Composite is lower on Young, having him at no. 661 and the third best player in Hawaii.

Regardless, Young is a 6-foot-5, 275-pound people mover. He was named to the Polynesian Bowl earlier this month. Additionally, in practices against top competition, Young rose to the occasion and was a lights out defender in open reps. He has all the technique to be a force on the line, and this is a player I have wanted the Spartans to have since Jonathan Smith announced he was taking his coaching to East Lansing. Smith and offensive line coach Jim Michalczik landed a great one. I can see Michalczik making Young into the next All-American.

Projection

Young enters into a Michigan State offensive line room that has a lot of questions. However, with recent movement, such as the portal commitment of Luke Newman, these are exciting questions. The Spartans return Stanton Ramil, who missed 2023 with injury after being a touted high school commitment. Ethan Boyd and Brandon Baldwin each started last season, but neither did enough to secure a spot headed into spring ball. Young’s weight (275 pounds) may hold him back this season, as that is only the very small side for tackle size.

With Newman in his last year of eligibility, along with Baldwin being in his last season or two, I think Young redshirts this season. His high play caliber will translate well, but bulking up is necessary for the Big Ten. I think we do see Young on field for a decent chunk of his four allowed games, much like what Michigan State and Mark Dantonio did with Devontae Dobbs in 2019. Dobbs played in nearly 60 snaps that year, meaning approximately 2-3 series a game in his four contests.

Once Newman is graduated and off to the NFL in 2025, I think that Young will be the starting tackle for Aidan Chiles in his final season or two. Even if he cannot secure a tackle spot, at 6-foot-5 and the uncertainty of the inside position, Young could also see reps inside if Ramil and Boyd shine.

  • Alessio Milivojevic, QB

QB outlook

Losing: Noah Kim, Katin Houser, Sam Leavitt
Returning: Andrew Schorfhaar
Adding: Aidan Chiles, Tommy Schuster, Ryland Jessee

Alessio Milivojevic, or A-Mili, is the latest high school quarterback from Illinois-to-Michigan State in the pipeline. A-Mili was a late riser in the 2024 class, posting unbelievable numbers (49 total touchdowns) in his senior year. In part due to concerns over his level of competition, and also due to most teams having a class quarterback for 2024, he was a Ball State commit until the Spartans came his way. He was rated No. 1113 in the nation by the 247Sports Composite, and the No. 63 quarterback — 247Sports’ system was higher on the signal caller, ranking him as the No. 41 QB and over a point higher in the player rating.

Milivojevic is a quarterback that can make any throw from any angle, and performs well under pressure. He will move in the pocket but avoid instantly scrambling, looking to make a play with his arm first. Granted, if he tucks the ball, you will not see him avoid contact. He is equally willing to slide as he is to battle through contract.

I am very high on A-Mili, if you cannot tell.

Projection

Until the Spartans nabbed Tommy Schuster in the portal, I believed that Milivojevic would be looking at the backup quarterback role. Jonathan Smith was not shy in using freshman Aidan Chiles at Oregon State despite having DJU. Granted, Chiles entered as a top-60 prospect in the nation. I think Milivojevic has sky-high potential, but is not as far along that Chiles was at this point last year.

With Schuster completing his final year as Chiles’ likely backup, I think that Milivojevic takes the year to learn Smith’s system and be ready to blossom in 2025 behind Chiles. A-Mili is also ahead of the curve, as he also elected to enroll early. He will be competing with fellow 2024 signee (and early enrollee) Ryland Jessee to be QB3 this season, and have the leg up for next season. At best, we may see Milivojevic have a Katin Houser-like 2022 season, where the then-true freshman was on field for a game against Akron.

  • Mercer Luniewski, OT

OT outlook

Losing: Spencer Brown, Evan Brunning
Returning: Brandon Baldwin, Ethan Boyd, Braden Miller, Stanton Ramil, Ashton Lepo, Jacob Merritt, Andy Hartman
Adding: Rustin Young, Payton Stewart, Luke Newman

Mercer Luniewski is the second offensive tackle in this class. He was one of the commits to stick the course throughout the Mel Tucker scandal, and reaffirmed his commitment with Smith and Jim Michalczik. Mercer has a few inches and pounds on Young, entering as the biggest freshman lineman.

He was rated No. 715 on the 247Sports Composite, and No. 53 among offensive tackles. And 247Sports was right with this, ranking him at No. 55 for his position. Allen Trieu noted that he has kept his athleticism despite adding weight to bulk up in high school, but still has technique issues that come with being newer to the game.

Projection

A necessity to be an offensive tackle, especially in the Big Ten, is a balance of weight, length, and technique. Unlike Young, who checks the length and technique boxes, Mercer Luniewski checks the boxes for his length and weight. I believe that it would do him good to spend a year redshirting. He has already got a start on improving, enrolling at Michigan State for this semester.

Luniewski will likely follow the route that a lot of Michigan State tackles have in recent years, by redshirting and not seeing any of the field. However, I would be in favor of him playing a series or two late in a game out of hand to get good film against new opponents to establish a baseline for the tackle and for him to learn off of. He has the tools to be a great lineman for the Spartans, but he might need a season or two to get his technique to match his athleticism. Allen Treiu also touches on this, complementing Luniewski, stating that the tackle’s tools and work ethic should make him accelerate through his development.

  • Wyatt Hook, TE

TE outlook

Losing: Maliq Carr, Evan Morris, Jaylan Franklin, Jackson Morse, Tyneil Hopper (in portal)
Returning: Brennan Parachek, Jack Nickel, Michael Masunas, Ademola Faleye
Adding: Jack Velling

Wyatt Hook joins Rustin Young as a player that was flipped from Oregon State when Jonathan Smith left for East Lansing. The tight end elected to play for Brian Wozniak, who had established Oregon State’s tight ends as legitimate threats. Hook looks to follow the footsteps of Luke Musgrave and Jack Velling.

He was rated as the No. 1331 player nationally in the 247Sports Composite, and No. 71 in his position. The 247Sports rankings are much higher on Hook, with him coming in and the No. 49 tight end, and 32 places better among California prospects that the Composite. Hook has over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns over the last two seasons for Homestead High School, and utilizes his hands to guide the ball in. He has good size (6-foot-5.5, 235 pounds) for a tight end entering college.

Projection

Mel Tucker and Jay Johnson over-recruited on tight ends in recent years, and there is now a logjam of inexperience at the position. Besides Velling, who I believe is a surefire tight end No. 1, Parachek and Nickel all saw the field last season. I would lean towards Parachek as the second tight end, but do not rule out Nickel or a late Masunas push.

Hook is not among the early enrollees, and that may hurt his chances for seeing the field in 2024. I expect that there may be a transfer out from this current room following spring workouts, with five players who can reasonably see the field before counting the incoming freshman.

Hook currently would be the lightest tight end on the roster, and he will likely bulk up for a season before seeing the field. With the current logjam, I would be surprised to see prospect on field this year. That said, his film intrigues me and it would be a very welcome surprise to see Hook play next season. Even on special teams, that would speak to how the staff views him. If a coach with the caliber of Brian Wozniak wanted Hook, I am on the hype train for the freshman tight end.

  • Payton Stewart, OT

OT outlook

Losing: Spencer Brown, Evan Brunning
Returning: Brandon Baldwin, Ethan Boyd, Braden Miller, Stanton Ramil, Ashton Lepo, Jacob Merritt, Andy Hartman
Adding: Rustin Young, Mercer Luniewski, Luke Newman

Payton Stewart is another prospect that was a late Oregon State flip. He was heavily coveted by fellow Big Ten school Northwestern, before the hazing allegations surfaced last summer that ultimately led to Pat Fitzgerald’s firing. He dropped his commitment to the Wildcats and was with Oregon State. Only a few weeks after that, the conference imploded. However, he stuck the course, believing in Jonathan Smith. When Smith left for the Spartans, Jim Michalczik came calling, and Michigan State football ultimately prevailed for Stewart’s services.

Stewart is the third tackle in this list, but do not count out the Kelso (Wash.) product. He was rated No. 905 nationally by the 247Sports Composite, and No. 65 among tackles — 247Sports was slightly lower, rating him No. 74. He is also 6-foot-7, with his length being a serious strength.

He was first-team All-Greater St. Helens League this season. Payton Stewart is a tackle that provides a lot of push, and he is not the first Kelso product in the FBS entering 2024. Stewart paved the way for Conner Noah in 2022, and Noah is currently a redshirt freshman with the University of Nevada. Noah had 862 yards that season, being named the offensive MVP of the league.

Projection

Stewart is another prospect who I believe will develop nicely. That said, at 6-foot-7, 270 pounds, he likely needs a season or two with the nutrition staff to develop into a Big Ten lineman in terms of size. He moves people off the ball, but the lack of size is a killer when most players are very fundamentally sound at the FBS level.

A redshirt would not be the end of the world, either. With Newman, Baldwin, and likely Boyd gone within the next two seasons, I think Stewart stands to gain by bulking up in 2024. Stewart is a player who I would put in the same boat as Mercer Luniewski. I am all for the staff having the younger players on film for a series or two for teaching points. However, I believe that redshirting a lineman out of high school helps the player get up to collegiate speed and avoids an early injury. I believe that Michalczik hit on all three of his tackles this cycle.

  • Austin Clay, WR

WR outlook

Losing: Tre Mosley, Christian Fitzpatrick, Tyrell Henry, Sebastian Brown
Returning: Montorie Foster Jr., Jaron Glover, Alante Brown (?), Antonio Gates Jr., Aziah Johnson, Jaelen Smith
Adding: TJ Sheffield, Nick Marsh

Austin Clay was a late addition to this class. Much like Alessio Milivojevic, Clay had fallen between the cracks as a recruit. He was offered by mainly MAC schools, and was committed to Bowling Green until the Spartans came calling.

Clay is ranked as the No. 1328 prospect per the 247Sports Composite, and No. 172 receiver. Like most prospects in Smith’s class, 247Sports’ system was again higher, rating the Midpark (Ohio) product as the No. 139 receiver.

I would avoid putting too much stock into Clay’s rankings, too. Hawkins is known for finding receivers who have the ability to generate a spark. He was a first-team all-state selection this season, and accounted for three return touchdowns this season. In addition, Clay added over 700 receiving yards and caught seven touchdowns. Clay’s athleticism is off the charts too, as he is a menace on the basketball court, recently recording a school record 10 steals in a game last month. Like I said, Hawkins knows how to find a player with a spark.

Projection

Normally, I would think that a player like Clay might be redshirted for a season to bulk up. Clay weighs in at 165 pounds, and that is traditionally viewed as a weight that is not viable for Power Five football. Yes, Devonta Smith at Alabama was an exception.

However, the Spartans lost returner Tyrell Henry to Wisconsin this offseason, and Clay’s aforementioned ability at return man could prove dividends to this staff. The Spartans will be testing players back at return man this spring though, and Clay will have to displace the winner of the spring contest this summer. Tyrell Henry (yes, I am again comparing him to Henry) proved his worth as a gunner his freshman season in 2022 before breaking out. I can see Clay following a Henry-like path to the field. Both have a lot of comparable high school numbers: they each posted over 600 yards and seven touchdowns receiving as seniors, both had multiple return touchdowns, and they are even within an inch of each other’s height, too. This staff might have the replacement to Henry in house this summer.

On the receiving front, I think that Clay might be overshadowed by Marsh and the two freshman who just redshirted last season, Johnson and Smith. That is not to be said that he cannot see the field, however. Henry saw the field through special teams, and translated that to a highlight reel-grabbing catch in his sophomore season last fall. Could we see the magic twice?

  • Rakeem Johnson, IOL

IOL outlook

Losing: Kevin Wigenton, JD Duplain, Nick Samac
Returning: Kristian Phillips, Geno VanDeMark, Gavin Broscious, Dallas Fincher, Cole Dellinger
Adding: Tanner Miller, Luke Newman, Charlton Luniewski

Rakeem Johnson was another one of Jonathan Smith’s prospects that he brought over from Oregon State. He was far from a done deal, however, as the Spartans and Jim Michalczik had to outlast the Cal Golden Bears and BYU offering Johnson following his decommitment from the Beavers.

Rakeem Johnson is rated as the no. 1274 player in the nation per the 247Sports Composite, and the no. 100 interior offensive lineman. As per usual, 247Sports is higher on the Idaho native, placing him at No. 85 among the interior offensive line group. He is the consensus No. 2 player from the state of Idaho this year, only behind Michigan-lean and receiver Gatlin Bair. That said, the lineman Johnson got named the MaxPreps player of the year this season, as he was a driving force that paved the way for Bishop Kelly High School to approach 3,000 rushing yards this season. He is the first Bishop Kelly Knight to head out to the Big Ten, as well. Johnson comes off of an Idaho State Championship and all-state first team appearance.

Projection

Johnson enters in as one of the smallest lineman prospects (6-foot-3, 255 pounds) that I can remember, outside of the Allen brothers. The last Spartan with a similar build to play as a true freshman would be the recently-graduated Nick Samac, who came in at 6-foot-4, 260 pounds. Even then, Samac entered after an injury to Matt Allen late in the season. Much like the Allens and Samac, I would expect to see Johnson moved to the center position. His lack of size is not as big of an issue with support from both sides of the line. Johnson has the talent and technique to play early, but it might be hard for him to break through to start.

That is not to say that Johnson should not or will not play, but Samac is the most recent size comparison I can find for Johnson. Tanner Miller and Dallas Fincher likely wind up holding down the first two spots on the center depth chart, unless the staff elects to put Fincher at guard.

The guard position is relatively thin, as Wigenton left for Illinois and Duplain graduated. That leaves Geno VanDeMark and Fincher (for two games) as the only interior lineman with starting experience as a Spartan. Kristian Phillips helped spark to big runs in his first few series at guard last season, and Gavin Broscious returns from a pre-season injury that forced him to miss 2023. Both Phillips and Broscious are players I am high on, and would love to see play more in 2024.

Cole Dellinger is also listed as an interior lineman due to his size, and he will be coming off of a redshirt season. I also listed Newman, as his tweener size could have the staff utilize him at tackle or guard. Newman is a surefire starter; it just depends on where the staff likes Newman lined up at best.

The leaves Johnson as the odd man out for playing time, currently. Fincher is entering his redshirt senior season, and Newman and VanDeMark will also be gone in the next two years. I am very high on Johnson, and expect him to be talked about in the guard or center role at this time next year. Give him a year, and he will go from redshirt status to competing for starting roles.

  • Ryland Jessee, QB

QB outlook

Losing: Noah Kim, Katin Houser, Sam Leavitt
Returning: Andrew Schorfhaar
Adding: Aidan Chiles, Tommy Schuster, Alessio Milivojevic

Ryland Jessee was the surprise flip on early signing day last month. Much like fellow freshman quarterback Alessio Milivojevic, Jessee was an underrated and underrecruited player. He originally was a commitment to Utah State, but after a late push and silent visit to Michigan State, he signed on with them in December.

Jessee ranks as the No. 1791 prospect in the class according to the 247Sports Composite. He is the No. 100 quarterback according to that, as well. Much like nearly the entire class, 247Sports is higher on Jessee. He jumps up to the No. 68 quarterback in the class, and jumps up 46 spots in rankings among California’s high school prospects. He also hops an even two points in player rankings.

The Helix (Calif.) High School prospect threw for 48 touchdowns over his last two seasons, and had four games with four or more touchdowns as a junior. He also led Helix to a 7-on-7 tournament title at San Diego State’s camp. He comes from an offense that is timing-based, and displays a lot of touch on his throws. Despite being in a timing-based offense, his film shows he is quite comfortable with extending plays until he can find the open man. While not as mobile as Aidan Chiles or A-Mili, Jessee still can use his legs quite well, recording over 100 rushing yards as a junior.

Projection

Jessee enrolled early, and he enrolled right into a competition with Milivojevic for what will likely be the battle for QB3. Both are late signees that Smith was high on, with Smith offering Jessee at Oregon State and Milovjevic being one of the first offers Smith sent out with Michigan State football.

I believe that both quarterbacks end up redshirting, but the dress list for Michigan State will be very telling in the future if the Spartans elect to travel with three quarterbacks. With the current redshirt rules, Smith might elect to alternate series or games between them in out-of-hand games.

Jessee is a player that has a lot of upside, and could very well push or beat Milivojevic for QB3. I do not see him progressing much beyond that in year one, however. Chiles has a high ceiling and a great grip on Smith’s offense, and Tommy Schuster fills the role of an experienced backup. We will get to see a bit of both Jessee and Milivojevic if the Spartans hold a spring game this year.

  • Charlton Luniewski, IOL

IOL outlook

Losing: Kevin Wigenton, JD Duplain, Nick Samac
Returning: Kristian Phillips, Geno VanDeMark, Gavin Broscious, Dallas Fincher, Cole Dellinger
Adding: Tanner Miller, Luke Newman, Rakeem Johnson

Charlton Luniewski is the fourth lineman of this class and committed alongside his brother Mercer to Mel Tucker last summer. He is smaller than Mercer, weighing in at 280 pounds. He was also coveted by a Big Ten school renown for their offensive line, as Wisconsin came calling before he announced his commitment to Michigan State football.

Luniewski is rated as the No. 1393 prospect in the class via the 247Sports Composite, and the No. 110 interior offensive lineman. Surprisingly, this is near right with were 247Sports has him, as they also rank him no. 110 among interior linemen. They are very slightly higher on him, with Charlton ranked a half point higher than his Composite rating. ESPN, however, is a lot higher on the Luniewski twin, having him as No. 76 among interior linemen.

Charlton and his brother were part of a Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy team that finished second in their conference this season, and paved the way for Brayden Mitchum, an honorable mention in the top 10 backs for their region preseason. Mercer and Charlton were invited to the Under Armour Next Football Camp Series last summer, and have parlayed that to enrolling at Michigan State.

Projection

While the depth at the offensive guard position is a lot thinner for Charlton than that of the tackle competition for Mercer, I still find it hard to see the interior lineman on the field this year. Charlton has good film of moving people off the ball, but it is quite a change to go from high school ball in Ohio to the Big Ten. Both Luniewskis enrolled early and have started the winter workouts with MSU, and Charlton should get a good taste of the Big Ten by going against Simeon Barrow, Maverick Hansen, and Derrick Harmon. If he can hold his own against those defensive tackles, we might have to look back at this and give Charlton a new projection outside of “redshirt”.

Charlton does have a leg up on fellow interior offensive lineman Rakeem Johnson with his early enrollee status, and Luniewski’s size does make him a viable playing option. That said, I think Johnson and Luniewski spend this season in the weight room and learning Jim Michalczik’s offensive line crash course.

  • Makhi Frazier, RB

RB outlook

Losing: Jordon Simmons, Harold Joiner III
Returning: Nate Carter, Jalen Berger, Jaren Mangham, Davion Primm, JoJo Martinez, Jaleon Barbarin
Adding: Brandon Tullis

Makhi Frazier was another late Oregon State flip, as Keith Bhonapha was high on the Texas running back. He held offers from four other Power Five schools, those being Missouri, Arkansas, Minnesota, and the Beavers.

Frazier ranks as the No. 1607 prospect in the 247Sports Composite, and the No. 120 running back. 247Sports has nearly the same prospect rating on him, but does rank him No. 106 in running backs. With Texas being arguably the premier state for high school football, Frazier’s offensive stats were slightly lower than you would expect, until you see the context. Frazier was the second running back in the rotation, sitting behind USC Commit Bryan Jackson when the McKinney offense was on the field.

Overall, Frazier rushed for 177 yards and four touchdowns last season, with McKinney High School mostly taking advantage of Frazier’s defensive prowess. He was an all-district defensive utility player as McKinney made playoffs this season, and recorded eight sacks his junior season. Frazier also added 266 yards rushing in 2022, and 46 receiving yards. Justin Thind noted that Frazier is more of a power-based runner, and also made note of his violent tape at linebacker.

Projection

I believe that Frazier will likely be redshirted this season. Granted, after injuries decimated the running back room last season, who really knows? Carter, Berger, and Mangham all missed parts of games, and Barbarin and Martinez suffered season ending injuries. Primm fumbled in one of his first carries of the season, and was in the proverbial dog house after. This led to Harold Joiner, who missed the start of the season with injury, being called back to the running back room. Joiner graduates and Jordon Simmons transferred out, but there is still a massive logjam at the position.

I think that Frazier has the talent, as evidenced by Keith Bhonapha bringing the back with him from Oregon State. Mangham enters his final season of eligibility this season, and Carter and Berger will likely be gone within two seasons. Frazier can shine on the practice squad and read his linemen’s blocks so that he can hit the ground running in a few seasons. In a doomsday of injuries scenario, I can see Frazier playing this season. For now, he should redshirt.

Another option might be moving Frazier to the defensive side of the ball. Michigan State football currently has a quartet of players (Cal Haladay, Darius Snow, transfer Jordan Turner, Ma’a Gaoteote) that have a season or two of eligibility left, and then it would open season to claim a position at linebacker.

We will see more at the summer roster release, as Frazier did not enroll early so we will not have the early preview during spring ball.

  • Brandon Tullis, RB

RB outlook

Losing: Jordon Simmons, Harold Joiner III
Returning: Nate Carter, Jalen Berger, Jaren Mangham, Davion Primm, JoJo Martinez, Jaleon Barbarin
Adding: Makhi Frazier

Brandon Tullis is the final prospect on the offensive side of the ball for this group, and was another running back Bhonapha wanted to come with to East Lansing. He also hails from Texas, and flipped from the Beavers last month. He held four Power Five offers, those being MSU, Oregon State, Kansas, and Cal. Surprisingly, Texas State was the only in-state school to offer the talented Tullis. Texas hosted the back on a visit in 2021, but they too overlooked the back.

Tullis ranks as the No. 1529 overall prospect on the 247Sports Composite, and the No. 115 back. He is a rare exception to Smith’s staff signing a player higher on the 247Sports rankings, however. Tullis is a point lower on player rating and the No. 136 running back on the 247Sports ranks. ESPN rated him as the No. 98 running back in the country.

Tullis accounted for over 1,300 rushing yards during his time at Memorial (Texas) High School. He was also a threat in the passing game, with nearly 500 receiving yards for his career. Tullis was set for a big season last year, but injuries kept him limited in game action. Additionally, sophomore back Xavier Foster stepped up, and I would believe Frisco Memorial would want their sophomore to play more as they finished 2-8.

Projection

With Tullis “fully healthy” according to a recent interview, he should be looking to impress the coaching staff this spring. He enrolled early and can capitalize if Barbarin, Martinez, or any of the other backs are still recovering from various lumps they took throughout the 2023 season.

I am slightly higher on Tullis than Frazier, mostly due to the added threat in the passing game. Additionally, Tullis had the benefit of more playing time at the position. That said, I do not think Tullis sees much of the field this season. Carter, Berger, and Mangham have too much experience and proven talent to warrant a redshirt year being burned. Additionally, Barbarin has explosive athleticism, and Primm once was rumored to be the next man up after Kenneth Walker. All the current scholarship backs make it hard enough to gain a touch, before you add in the two newcomers.

Tullis is also a projected power back like Frazier, and I expect the two of them will be battling to be the next man up following Mangham’s final season this fall. Both Berger (redshirt senior) and Carter (redshirt junior) enter their second to last seasons (assuming Berger has a COVID-19 year left), and the staff is starting to restock the room. I do not expect to see much more competition for the group until next cycle, and that means the time is now for Tullis and Frazier to establish themselves.

Michigan State Media and Information Management Class of '22. Emmett covers primarily football, recruiting, and basketball for Spartan Shadows. He has also written for Spartan Avenue, Basic Blues, and Hail WV.

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