After a magical 2021 season led by running back Kenneth Walker, reality hit hard for Michigan State last season. The Spartans fell from a New Years Six bowl game to a 5-7 record in 2022. And with only 13 returning starters as a result of losing two of their top offensive stars to the transfer portal after spring practice, 2023 has the potential to be another rough season in East Lansing.
Quarterback Payton Thorne hit the transfer portal in late April, winding up at Auburn for tis upcoming season. That leaves sophomore Noah Kim (6’2” 185 lbs.) and redshirt freshman Katin Houser (6’3” 213 lbs.) to battle it out for the starting job...or maybe alternate series. Kim played sparingly last season, completing 14 of 19 passes for 174 yards and three touchdowns. Houser only played briefly in a single game, completing one of two passes for two yards.
Sophomore tailback Jalen Berger (6’1” 215 lbs.) didn’t measure up to Walker’s lofty performance last season, rushing for 683 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. The Spartans are adding transfers Jaren Mangham (6’2” 231 lbs.) from South Florida and Nathan Carter (5’9” 196 lbs.) from UConn. Both suffered season-ending injuries after week 4 last season; Mangham has 1,251 career rushing yards while Carter has 983 yards with a sparkling 6.3 yards per carry average. Not saying either of these are going to be a Walker successor, but the running back group should be stronger in 2023.
The receiver group is definitely starting over in 2023 with only senior Tre Mosley (6’2” 195 lbs.) returning. Mosley caught 35 passes for 359 yards and four touchdowns. Junior tight end Maliq Carr (6’5” 255 lbs.) caught 16 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns. Among the youngsters who will be counted on to contribute this ght tackle Spencer Brown (6’6” 32 are former Nebraska receiver Alante Brown (5’10” 185 lbs.) and redshirt freshman Antonio Gates Jr. (6’2” 187 lbs.), son of the eight-time Pro Bowl tight end with the San Diego Chargers.
The strength of the Spartan offense should be the offensive line with four returning starters, led by seniors Nick Samac (6’4” 300 lbs.) at center and left guard JD Duplain (6’4” 305 lbs.); both were honorable mention All-Big Ten last season. Also returning are senior right tackle Spencer Brown (6’6” 20 lbs.) and sophomore left tackle Brandon Baldwin (6’7” 315 lbs.). Add in a top junior college recruit with right guard Keyshawn Blackstock (6’5” 315 lb.s), and Sparty should have a decent offensive line.
On the defensive line, honorable mention All-Big Ten defensive tackle Simeon Barrow (6’2” 285 lbs.) returns. A two year starter, Barrow has 74 career tackles. He’ll be matched up with either sophomore Derrick Harmon (6’5” 320 lbs.), who had 30 tackles last season, or Liberty transfer Dre Butler (6’5” 300 lbs.) who had 23 tackles last season. Junior defensive end Avery Dunn (6’4” 245 lbs.) had 28 tackles as a spot starter last season should be paired with touted Texas A&M transfer Tunmise Adeleye (6’4” 290 lbs.)
The linebackers will be the strength of the Spartans in 2023, led by first team All-Big Ten middle linebacker Cal Haladay (6’1” 235 lbs.). A two-year starter, Haladay has 216 career tackles. Returning from injuries last season are junior Darius Snow (6’1” 230 lbs.) and senior Jacoby Windmon (6’2” 250 lbs.); Snow has 92 career tackles, while Windmon had 49 tackles last season alternating between defensive end and linebacker. Senior nickle back Angelo Grose (5’10” 185 lbs.) started eight games last season with 53 tackles.
Michigan State’s secondary has been a weakness the last couple of seasons, and with only one full-time starter returning, might not be much better. Junior cornerback Charles Brantley (6’0” 170 lbs.) had 48 tackles and a team-leading seven passes defended last season. Senior cornerback Chester Kimbrough (6’0” 180 lbs.) started in 2021 and at the start of 2022, but was benched during the Spartans loss to Washington. Considering that they need to replace a sixth round NFL draft pick, the secondary could be headed for yet another rough season in East Lansing.
This looks like it might be another rough season for the Spartans, as Michigan State has too many question marks at quarterback, receiver and in the secondary. If an experienced offensive line can help generate a better ground game in 2023 versus 2022, the Spartans might be able to battle back to become bowl eligible this season. This November matchup could be one of those swing games for Nebraska that will determine whether the Huskers go bowling or are home yet again for Christmas.
What happens when the Huskers travel to East Lansing in November?
This poll is closed
Nebraska. East Lansing. Jake Cotton falling backwards. Punt to the wrong guy. Banana peel. Sparty wins.
Nebraska. East Lansing. Taylor Martinez. Nebraska gets a big road W.
Nebraska. East Lansing. Nick Saban. 666 Husker yards. Assume the position, Sparty.