Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, January 25, 2015

Michigan State is in the midst of a magical time in its program?s history, winning double-digit games four times in the last five seasons with a Rose Bowl title after the 2013 season. And the momentum figures to continue as Mark Dantonio enters his ninth season in East Lansing.

[ MORE: MSU team homepage | 2014 MSU stats | 2014 MSU schedule ]

The Spartans will welcome back a potpourri of talent in 2015, including end Shilique Calhoun, nose man Lawrence Thomas, linebackers Ed Davis and Darien Harris and safety Montae Nicholson on a defense that saw coordinator Pat Narduzzi leave to coach Pitt. The offense will be led by a line that returns four starters with quarterback Connor Cook leading the skill talent along with tight end Josiah Price.

But holes must be filled, with the likes of defensive end Marcus Rush, guard Travis Jackson and punter Mike Sadler gone. But they don?t even make my list of the Top Five Spartans who must be replaced.

[ MORE: View all of Tom Dienhart's players to replace in 2015 posts ]

S Kurtis Drummond. He was voted the Big Ten?s defensive back of the year after leading the team in tackles (72), interceptions (4), pass break-ups (11) and passes defended (15).

LB Taiwan Jones. A second-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and an honorable-mention choice by the media, Jones ranked second on the team with 60 tackles, including career bests in tackles for loss (12.5 for 42 yards) and sacks (four for 19 yards).

RB Jeremy Langford. An honorable-mention All-Big Ten choice, Langford ran for 100 yards in a school-record 10 consecutive games. He also eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in 16 straight games vs. Big Ten foes en route to running for 1,522 yards in 2014. Langford leaves campus with 2,967 yards rushing and 40 TDs.

WR Tony Lippett. He was voted the Big Ten?s top receiver, a big-play man who stretched defenses. Lippett is the first Spartan to lead the Big Ten in receiving (92.2 ypg.; 1,198 yards) since Charles Rogers in 2002. He also was versatile, as he took reps at cornerback, too.

CB Trae Waynes. He was a consensus All-Big Ten selection who opted to turn pro. Waynes was one of the main factors why the Spartans ranked fourth in the FBS in passing-efficiency defense (102.9 rating) and 25th in passing defense (196.0 ypg.). He was a shut-down force.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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