From The Detroit Free Press
By: Connor Wilton
The Michigan State Spartans once again have high expectations this fall. Obviously, there are several Spartans who will need to step up this season in order for MSU to achieve their ultimate goal of playing in the Rose Bowl in January. But here are 5 players who will be most important in determining Spartan success this season.
5. TE - Dion Sims
This may come as a surprise to some people. Tight ends are becoming less valuable in college football as more teams implement spread offenses. However, with tons of inexperience at the wide receiver position, Sims could be called upon to become the Spartans primary target in the passing game this year. At 6'5 285 pounds, Dion Sims is essentially a lineman playing tight end. His size will allow him to get to almost any part of the field without too much resistance. He had a fantastic spring and summer which was capped off by a dominating performance in the intra-squad scrimmage where he had 10 receptions for 171 yards and a TD. The most important role for Sims this season will be providing as the safety valve for QB Andrew Maxwell. It's often believed that the TE is a QB's best friend and I think that will prove very true this season. Sims will also be very important for converting 3rd down passing situations. If Sims can stay healthy, he could help Maxwell immensely and turn the Spartan passing game into a strength.
4. LB - Max Bullough
As a true sophomore last season, Bullough proved he was more than capable of leading the Spartan D. An All-Big Ten second team selection by the coaches, Bullough was arguably the most consistent defensive player for MSU last year. Coming into his junior year, Bullough will be called upon to be even greater for the Spartans. At 6'3, 240 pounds, Bullough is a true middle linebacker whose size allows him to tussle with the big boys in the middle. While his size is a major plus, his most gifted attribute is his intelligence. Pat Narduzzi recently called him "the most unbelievable middle linebacker I've ever coached, just because the mental aspect of the game." Bullough always appears to be in control of the defense, something that will need to continue for the Spartan D to have success.
3. RB - Le'Veon Bell
Even though Le'Veon Bell did not become the primary RB until halfway through last year, there was no question he was MSU's most effective RB. With Edwin Baker now gone, Bell will get the majority of the carries with Larry Caper spelling him in passing situations. At 240 pounds, Bell is extremely difficult to bring down and he is surprisingly quick and agile for his size. With a more experienced offensive line leading the way, there is no reason Bell can't become one of the best running backs in the country and rush for 1000 yards. Bell will be extremely important to the Spartans this year and counted on to take pressure off QB Andrew Maxwell and the questionable passing game.
2. DE - William Gholston
The potential and talent of William Gholston is undeniable. He's a 6'7 275 pound defensive end with the speed of a linebacker. Gholston registered 70 tackles and 5.0 sacks last season which was good enough to earn him All-Big Ten second team honors. Personally, I thought Gholston was a little inconsistent at times. There were games were he would be constantly harassing the QB, and other games where he appeared to disappear. There also was his incident in the Michigan game where he punched QB Denard Robinson, resulting in a one game suspension. Gholston enters this year on the watch list for nearly every defensive award possible. The success of the Spartan defense will heavily rely on Gholston's play this season. If he can consistently dominate lineman and get to the quarterback, the Spartans will have a great chance at winning the Big Ten.
1. QB – Andrew Maxwell
Even though the importance of having a top-notch quarterback is diminishing in college football, no player will have a greater impact on Spartan success this season than Andrew Maxwell. Besides being a first year starter, Maxwell will have to deal with the pressure of replacing Kirk Cousins, the most successful quarterback in Michigan State history. Despite never starting a game for MSU, Maxwell is entering his third year in the Spartan program so he knows the offense better than anyone. Maxwell will have a strong running game to lean on, as well as a solid offensive line that should give him plenty of time to operate in the pocket. Maxwell also had a very impressive performance in the intra-squad scrimmage this past weekend. All signs point to Maxwell having a strong season, but nothing is certain until he takes the field August 31st.