Get ready for Thursday night's premiere of 'Green & White Days'
A season ago, BTN gave an inside look at reigning national champ Ohio State’s training camp on “Scarlet & Gray Days.” Starting Thursday night, at 7 p.m., BTN pulls back the curtain on Michigan State to give viewers a look at the inner workings of one of the defending Big Ten champs.
On the premiere of “Green & White Days: Inside Michigan State Training Camp, presented by Meijer,” go behind the scenes as camp begins and experience the rigorous tradition of the interval test, plus spend time with players and coaches on their final day before camp starts, and listen in at the Spartans’ first practice of the fall.
Mark Dantonio is entering his 10th season in East Lansing, and he has led the program to heights not seen since the glory days of Duffy Daugherty in the 1960s. The Spartans have won double-digit games five times in the last six years, in addition to winning three Big Ten championships and earning a playoff spot last season.
But this year’s team faces some personnel concerns as it looks to remain on top of the Big Ten.
Here is a look at five position battles to keep in mind while watching Green and White Days.
RECEIVER: MSU lost Big Ten wide receiver of the year Aaron Burbridge and Macgarrett Kings Jr. R.J. Shelton, the most experienced and accomplished wideoout, is key. He has seen his production increase each year and must play a big role. Felton Davis III was a true freshman who played in seven games in 2015. The coaches wanted to get him some experience last season knowing he would be playing a big role this upcoming season. Felton was Burbridge’s backup last season. Monty Madaris also is back and playing the best of all the wideouts. And keep an eye on redshirt freshman Darrell Stewart. Two early enrollees and stars in the making, Donnie Corley and Cam Chambers, will be in the mix, along with potentially two other incoming freshmen in Justin Layne and Trishton Jackson, who has looked good in camp. All four of those incoming freshman wide receivers were rated as four stars by Scout.com.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Lots of work to do. Gone are starting left tackle Jack Conklin, an All-American who left early for the NFL. Also departed are two-time All-America center Jack Allen and two-year starting guard Donavon Clark. David Beedle is penciled in to take over for Conklin. Keep an eye on redshirt freshman Cole Chewins. Brian Allen has been flipped from center to left guard. Kodi Kieler has been a tackle by trade but has flipped to center. The right side of the line has guard Brandon Clemons and tackle Dennis Finley, who had last year ruined by injury. Tackle Miguel Machado and guard Benny McGowan also are pushing.
QB: The loss of QB Connor Cook leaves a huge void. He was an all-time great. Tyler O’Connor looks like the heir apparent after emerging in the spring over Damion Terry. The fifth-year senior impressed by starting and winning at Ohio State last season. O’Connor is lauded for his leadership skills. He also has some skills, as he’s an accurate passer and possesses good mobility. Is O’Connor the answer?
DEFENSIVE LINE: Some big-time attrition here, as the Spartans lost three starters in Shilique Calhoun, Lawrence Thomas and Joel Heath. Malik McDowell will anchor the line and could play a multitude of positions; he has played on the inside his first two seasons and will also see action at end this season. End Demetrius Cooper was third on the team with five sacks last year playing end behind Calhoun primarily as a third-down rusher. And MSU watchers are stoked about redshirt freshman Raequan Williams at tackle. Senior Evan Jones is being counted on at end. And watch true freshman Josh King, a stud. Lastly, keep a look out for grad transfers Gabe Sherrod from Delaware State and Kevin Williams from Nebraska. They must impact.
SECONDARY: Injuries hampered this unit last year, as the famed “No Fly Zone” wasn’t up to its usual standards. But it could be good with three starters back. After having one of the best defenses in school history in 2013, the defense has gotten worse each of the last two seasons. However, it’s still very good at forcing turnovers. MSU was plus-14 in turnover margin (T-4th in FBS) in 2015. Sophomore Vayante Copeland needs to be a shutdown corner, which this defense lacked in 2015. He is coming back from a broken neck and could the program’s best cover man since Darqueze Dennard. Senior Darian Hicks is back to start on the other corner. Junior safety Montae Nicholson needs to finally live up to his potential. Senior safety Demetrious Cox is a rising star who also can play corner. When this defense is at its best, the corners excel in man coverage on an island. So, keep an eye on Copeland and Hicks.
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