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Hope and concern: Michigan State Spartans

6/8/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Biggest reason for hope -- Depth on defense

Michigan State started to look like a Mark Dantonio defense last fall, and the unit should take another stepforward in 2009. All-Big Ten linebacker Greg Jones headlines a group that led the Big Ten in red zone defense (75.6 percent) last season. Defensive end Trevor Anderson anchors the pass rush, and the Spartans should be even stronger in the secondary. Despite losing All-Big Ten safety Otis Wiley, Michigan State can go eight or nine deep in the back four. If another defensive lineman or two emerges, the Spartans will be very tough and continue to reflect their head coach's core values.

Biggest reason for concern -- Lack of star power on offense

Quick: Name two players on Michigan State's starting offense. All-American running back Javon Ringer is gone, and while the Spartans return some solid players, there are no bona fide stars. The team's new starting quarterback (Kirk Cousins or Keith Nichol) needs a wide receiver to emerge as a top target, with Mark Dell and Blair White being the top candidates. Michigan State finished eighth in the Big Ten in total offense last year (343.5 yards per game), and that was with a workhorse running back. This year's unit could be more explosive, but some headliners must emerge.