Michigan State has one of the fiercest defenses in the country, and their best position group is at linebacker. They bring back two seniors in Max Bullough and Denicos Allen who have started a combined 54 games and breakout candidate Taiwan Jones. The Spartans possess experience and talent at linebacker which will rank among the best in the Big Ten in 2013.
The heart and soul of the Spartans is Max Bullough. The senior captain will enter his third season as the starter at middle linebacker and will look to cement his legacy as one of the all-time greats at Michigan State. The two time All-Big Ten selection is coming off of a season in which he recorded 111 tackles with 12.5 for a loss. Bullough will likely find himself on the final list of Butkus Award candidates as the nation’s top linebacker. His brother, Riley Bullough, was expected to be the backup, but he moved to running back in the spring. If he sticks there then redshirt sophomore Pat Rhomberg will likely spell the elder Bullough.
At one outside linebacker position will be Allen who will enter his third year as a starter. He finished last season with 79 tackles, but his sack total dropped from 11 to just three. Even with the decrease in sack production, his 14 sacks rank 10th and his 29.5 tackles for a loss rank 11th in Michigan State history. At the other outside spot will be the junior Jones. He played in every game last year, including four starts and ranked fifth on the team with 5.5 tackles for a loss. Jones has prototypical size at 6’3 240 lbs. and athleticism that make him look like a solid NFL prospect down the road. He is a potential star, and with more game experience he could be considered for All-Big Ten accolades this season. Providing depth will be sophomore Darien Harris who appeared in every game last season.
The Spartans’ linebackers will be even stronger than last year even with the loss of Chris Norman. Bullough and Allen form one of the better duos in the conference, and if Jones can match his potential with production on the field they will be one of the best linebacking units in the country.