By Dan Kelley on July 12, 2014
After winning the Rose Bowl and boasting one of the best defenses in all of college football last season, the Michigan State Spartans have some rebuilding to do in 2014. They may take a small step back this year, but the Spartans could still be a great team. Here are five players who should break out in 2014 and give the Spartans a chance to repeat as Big Ten champs.
Following the departure of LB Denicos Allen, the Spartans will need someone to step up in a big way. One potential candidate is Ed Davis. As a sophomore last season, Davis saw limited action, but made his presence felt when he was on the field. He finished the year with 17 tackles and four sacks and had one of his best performances against Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship. Against the Buckeyes he recorded three tackles and one sack.
R.J. Shelton is a versatile athlete who has the potential to be used at more than one spot in the offense. Shelton thrives in the open field (he was MSU's top kick-returner last season), but can also do solid work between the tackles. As a freshman last season, he ran for 153 yards on only 21 carries, for an average of 7.3 yards per carry. If the Spartans decide to reduce Jeremy Langford's touches, Shelton could get the ball quite a bit more.
The Spartans will be without longtime starting strong safety Isaiah Lewis this year, but shouldn't drop off too much with R.J. Williamson taking his place. Williamson has been solid as a reserve the past two seasons and should be ready to take over the starting role. Last season, Williamson made 44 tackles (with three for a loss), defended three passes and snagged one interception.
Now that Darqueze Dennard is off to the NFL, Darian Hicks should step into a much larger role in his sophomore season. Hicks played primarily on special teams last year, but may be asked to take over at corner opposite Trae Waynes in 2014. Hicks was considered a four-star recruit in the class of 2013 by 247 Sports.
Josiah Price was surprisingly productive as a redshirt freshman last year, making 17 receptions for 210 yards and four touchdowns. Price could become one of the focal points of the Spartans passing game this season, specifically in the red zone. Price was particularly effective near the end zone towards the end of the year last season, making touchdown grabs in the Big Ten Championship and the Rose Bowl.
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