With spring practice officially behind us, we're taking a look at each Big Ten team and identifying a player who announced himself as a potential key performer this fall.
These are guys who haven't played big roles yet but showed enough during the 15 spring practices -- not just some fluky, spring-game performance against backups -- to factor heavily into their team's plans.
Our series turns next to the defending champion Big Ten champion Michigan State Spartans.
Spring breakout player: DE Demetrius Cooper
The sound you hear is the collective sigh of the Big Ten offensive coordinators, who are saying, "Oh, great. Another Michigan State defensive playmaker."
The Spartans have been pumping them out like a nearby Detroit factory line recently, and Cooper is the latest model. The 240-pound redshirt freshman turned heads all spring and then was a hurricane of disruption in the team's spring game. Coach Mark Dantonio has already compared him to reigning Big Ten defensive lineman of the year Shilique Calhoun -- or at least when Calhoun was a freshman who flashed his talent on occasion.
The big question is where Cooper will find playing time, as Michigan State already has the best pair of veteran defensive ends in the league in Calhoun and senior Marcus Rush, not to mention the still-unfulfilled-but-tantalizing potential of Lawrence Thomas. Spartans coaches said after the spring game that Cooper could be used in third down pass-rushing situations, which would make sense for a young player who hasn't learned all the intricacies of the game yet.
The offense also found a potential breakout player in tight end Jamal Lyles, a former defensive end who made the switch to offense and could present matchup nightmares. Lyles could have an easier path to playing time than Cooper. But when betting on breakout players for Michigan State, it's usually wise to look toward their defensive assembly line first.