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Michigan State Football: 5 Underclassmen Ready To Make An Impact

Michigan State Football: 5 Underclassmen Ready To Make An Impact

Michigan State Football 2014 Underclassmen Impact
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off of a Rose Bowl victory, Michigan State returns some experienced players at key positions. However, the Spartans also boast some game-ready underclassmen this season thanks to multiple strong recruiting classes. While MSU may not need to rely on youth in 2014, these rising stars are already ready to earn significant playing time. Here are five names you will be chanting this season.

5. Malik McDowell

Malik McDowell Michigan State 2014 Season Impact
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5. Malik McDowell

Malik McDowell Michigan State 2014 Season Impact
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Michigan State's top-rated incoming freshman according to ESPN, Malik McDowell arrives in East Lansing with a Big Ten-ready body and instincts that will be impossible to stash away. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi likes to use as many as defensive linemen as possible, and though McDowell is not expected to start, MSU coaches anticipate him blending in nicely with an already-imposing group.

4. Damion Terry

Damion Terry Michigan State 2014 Season Impact
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

4. Damion Terry

Damion Terry Michigan State 2014 Season Impact
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Connor Cook may not have any true competition for the starting job after his impressive Rose Bowl run, but there is reason to believe the Spartans are going to get Damion Terry on the field in 2014 after redshirting the Pennsylvania native last season. A legitimate dual-threat option, Terry offers a combination of vision and speed MSU will look to utilize in various sets as a change of pace. Expect some Wildcat formations sprinkled in this year.

3. Demetrius Cooper

Demetrius Cooper Michigan State 2014 Season Impact
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

3. Demetrius Cooper

Demetrius Cooper Michigan State 2014 Season Impact
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Demetrius Cooper has already been targeted as one of the players to watch this season. Head coach Mark Dantonio recently compared him to former MSU stud Julian Peterson, and fellow teammates have likened his size and raw skills to Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year Shilique Calhoun. This redshirt freshman will help ensure Michigan State's defense remains one of the country's most-feared units just by stepping on the field.

2. R.J. Shelton

R.J. Shelton Michigan State Football 2014 Season Impact
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

2. R.J. Shelton

R.J. Shelton Michigan State Football 2014 Season Impact
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

R.J. Shelton gave Spartan fans a glimpse at his big-play potential as a true freshman. Despite the small sample size, his experience will help this season, as the Wisconsin native appears to be up for a larger role in the offense with MSU looking to limit Jeremy Langford's carries. Shelton is electrifying in the open field, making him an option at receiver and in Wildcat formations with Terry as both a ball carrier and decoy.

1. Darian Hicks

Darian Hicks Michigan State Football 2014 Season Impact
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

1. Darian Hicks

Darian Hicks Michigan State Football 2014 Season Impact
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Of all the underclassmen on MSU's roster, Darian Hicks will likely have the most important role. The sophomore is tabbed as the Spartans' replacement for departed All-American Darqueze Dennard at corner. With 14 games already under his belt, MSU seems confident that he is not only ready to play, but star alongside fellow corner Trae Waynes. You are looking at the Spartans' 2014 x-factor.

Michael Briggs is a college football writer for Rantsports.com.  Follow him on Twitter @MichaelSBriggs or add him to your network on Google.