5 Players Who Will Emerge For Michigan State

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Five Players Who Will Emerge For Michigan State

spartans
Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

The Michigan State Spartans are coming off a disappointing season in which they went 7-6 with a victory in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl over TCU. Their defense was great, finishing top 10 nationally, but they really struggled on offense in Andrew Maxwells' first season as a starter.

Their defense should be stout again in 2013 as they return most of their starters. On offense, workhorse running back Le'Veon Bell and top receiving target, tight end Dion Sims, left early for the NFL, leaving big holes in an already shaky offense. Maxwell, who is in a position battle of his own with redshirt sophomore Connor Cook, must improve in his final season as a Spartan if the offense is to be formidable.

There will also be competition among the offensive line, where four starters return. Senior tackle Fou Fonati returns from a season ending foot injury that he suffered in pregame warm-ups before the Spartans eventual loss to rival Notre Dame.

Replacing Sims will be no easy task, and the Spartans have former walk-on Andrew Gleichert penciled in as the starter. Challenging Gleichert is redshirt sophomore Paul Lang who saw action in 10 games, including two starts.

There will be plenty of intriguing battles for starting positions throughout the summer, and some could last well into the season, most notably at quarterback and running back. With spring practice over, here is a look five players who will emerge in 2013 for Michigan State.

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Trae Waynes

trae
Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

Two-time All-Big Ten selection Johnny Adams has graduated and moved on to the NFL leaving a big hole in the Spartan secondary. Waynes saw playing time in nine games last season, mostly on special teams. He has good height for the position (6-foot-1), but will need to add weight to his 172-pound frame. Reports out of spring practice have been solid and he left penciled in as a starter. He'll have the summer to refine his skills and should head into the season starting opposite Darqueze Dennard.

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Gerald Holmes

holmes
Rivals.com

Running back remains a position of concern for the Spartans after spring practice, as they were forced to move linebacker Riley Bullough over to the offensive side of the ball. If the season started today, he would be the starting running back, but the position is far from settled. Holmes, an incoming freshman, will arrive in the summer with his sights on the starting job and should have every opportunity to seize it. He has a college-ready body and is a bruising runner with good speed. The position battle is wide open and expect Holmes to be the starter, or splitting carries at the very least, heading into the season.

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Aaron Burbridge

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Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE

Burbridge came in as a highly-touted recruit and, considering Maxwells' struggles, didn't disappoint as a freshman. He saw action in 11 games, including seven starts, recording 29 catches for 364 yards and two touchdowns. Burbridge flashed his potential in his first year in a Spartan Uniform, but will need to be more consistent with his hands and improve his route running to take the next step. He heads into his sophomore season as a clear-cut starter and potential No. 1 target. A lot of his production will depend on Maxwells' improvement, otherwise he would be higher on the list. With last year's leading receiver, Dion Sims, moving on to the NFL, Burbridge should see a big jump in targets and should establish himself as a force at the receiver position.

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Shilique Calhoun

shilique
Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

With William Gholston leaving early for the NFL, the Spartans have a hole to fill. Enter Calhoun, who played in all 13 games last season as a backup. He showed his potential in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, recording a team-high five quarterback hurries and two tackles for a loss, including one sack. Reports out of spring practice have been extremely positive and he's penciled in as the starter heading into summer camp. With a little added weight and strength, he should be able to lock down the position and be a big contributor on a very good defense.

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Taiwan Jones (far left, No. 34)

jones
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

After taking over the starting linebacker job from then senior Chris Norman late last season, Jones will look to establish himself among the upper-tier linebackers in the Big Ten. Jones played in all 13 games last season, starting the final four. For the season, he had 38 tackles and tied for fifth on the team with 5.5 tackles for a loss. He possesses prototypical size and has good athleticism for the position, as well as a nose for the ball. With increased playing time, Jones will be a mainstay in opponents' backfields and will challenge for All-Big Ten honors.

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