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Michigan State spring wrap

4/30/2010

2009 overall record: 6-7

2009 conference record: 4-4 (T-6th)

Returning starters

Offense: 6, defense: 6, kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

QB Kirk Cousins, WR Keith Nichol, WR Mark Dell, LG Joel Foreman, LB Greg Jones, LB Eric Gordon, CB Chris L. Rucker, DT Jerel Worthy

Key losses

WR Blair White, LT Rocco Cironi, C Joel Nitchman, DE Trevor Anderson, NT Oren Wilson, CB Jeremy Ware, PK Brett Swenson

2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 Western Michigan

Sept. 11 vs. Florida Atlanta (at Ford Field, Detroit)

Sept. 18 Notre Dame

Sept. 25 Northern Colorado

Oct. 2 Wisconsin

Oct. 9 at Michigan

Oct. 16 Illinois

Oct. 23 at Northwestern

Oct. 30 at Iowa

Nov. 6 Minnesota

Nov. 13 Open

Nov. 20 Purdue

Nov. 27 at Penn State2009 statistical leaders (*-returners)

Rushing: Larry Caper* (468 yards)

Passing: Kirk Cousins* (2,680 yards)

Receiving: Blair White (990 yards)

Tackles: Greg Jones* (154)

Sacks: Greg Jones* (9)

Interceptions: Brandon Denson, Trenton Robinson*, Chris L. Rucker*, Danny Fortener, Jeremy Ware and Ross Weaver (1)

Spring answers

1. Skill positions stacked: Arguably no Big Ten team boasts as many offensive weapons as Michigan State. The Spartans are very excited about sophomore running backs Larry Caper and Edwin Baker. They lose All-Big Ten wideout Blair White but moved quarterback Keith Nichol to receiver and should have plenty of firepower there with Keshawn Martin, Mark Dell and others. Michigan State also boasts the Big Ten's deepest group of tight ends, led by Charlie Gantt.

2. Defense to stress 3-4: Michigan State's depth at linebacker prompted the greater use of the 3-4 alignment this spring. The Spartans hope the formation gives them greater flexibility with All-American Greg Jones, and they also want to feature Eric Gordon and Chris Norman. Incoming freshmen William Gholston and Max Bullough also factor into the shift toward the 3-4.

3. Cousins takes command: Kirk Cousins is Michigan State's undisputed offensive leader, and he showed why this spring. Cousins, a co-captain as a sophomore in 2009, admits he's more comfortable as a leader these days, and his play is reflecting it. The junior quarterback finished a solid session by completing 10 of 15 passes for 254 yards and a touchdown in the spring game.

Fall questions

1. The secondary: For the second straight spring, we heard a lot of good things about the secondary. And for the second straight year, the Spartans allowed a ton of passing yards (534) in the spring game. Now the defensive backs also made their share of plays, as cornerbacks Chris L. Rucker and Johnny Adams combined for three sacks and four tackles for loss, but the jury is still out on this group. The secondary has experience but needs to be more consistent and generate more interceptions.

2. Line play: Michigan State looks good to go at most of the skill positions, but there's some uncertainty along both lines. The two main priorities this summer will be solidifying the right side of the offensive line and identifying some capable defensive ends. Jones, who led the team in sacks last fall, wants to play a bigger role in pass coverage, so the Spartans need to shore up their pass rush.

3. Kicking it: Placekicker Brett Swenson was a special player, and he'll be tough to replace. Kevin Muma and Dan Conroy competed throughout the spring and will continue to do so this fall. The race is tight, and Michigan State's offense will be under more pressure to reach the end zone in 2010.