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B1G shoes to fill: Michigan State

3/31/2015

Mark Dantonio thinks this year’s senior class at Michigan State might be one of the best he has had. That doesn’t mean the Spartans will start the 2015 season without important holes to fill.

All week, we’ll be looking at outgoing Big Ten players who are leaving big shoes to fill for whoever steps in behind them. The exiting seniors in East Lansing won more games than any class in Michigan State history, leaving plenty to live up to. Two of the hardest players to replace had great finishes to their careers in positions that often are counted on to be playmakers for the Spartans.

B1G SHOES TO FILL: Jeremy Langford, RB

Why: Langford might be the most underrated running back coming out of the conference this season. He came up just shy of 3,000 rushing yards and averaged 20 touchdowns per year during his last two seasons as the featured player in Michigan State’s running game. Quarterback Connor Cook and the passing attack took a major step forward in the past couple years, but they remain a run-first offense that will need to find someone to step up and replace Langford’s production.

Replacement candidates: Madre London (6-1, 220, redshirt freshman), Gerald Holmes (6-0, 218, sophomore), Delton Williams(6-1, 228, junior), L.J. Scott (6-2, 228, freshman)

The skinny: Williams, the only back with significant experience, would be the frontrunner here if he wasn’t missing spring practice due to a recent arrest. It’s unclear if Williams will rejoin his teammates. In the meantime, Holmes and London get a head start this spring. They might need it to fend off Scott when he arrives this summer. The Ohio native was Michigan State’s top recruit this year. The Spartans won’t necessarily need to find their guy by the first week of the season, but history shows that Dantonio and his staff typically like to find one strong runner and stick with him.

BIG SHOES TO FILL: Trae Waynes, CB

Why: Waynes will be the top cornerback taken in this year’s NFL Draft for a reason. The 6-1, 182-pound physical corner thrived on an island last fall in the Spartans defense. Michigan State’s run defense – the top-ranked unit in the country in 2014 – counts on its defensive backs to handle receivers in single coverage. Waynes, who had 46 tackles and three interceptions in his final season, was a reliable option on the outside.

Replacement candidates: Darian Hicks (5-10, 178, junior), Demetrious Cox (6-1, 200, junior), Vayante Copeland (6-0, 200, redshirt freshman)

The skinny: Hicks returns with the experience of starting last year, but he struggled to cover the deep ball at times opposite Waynes. Cox has the size to be a strong player on the edge and also played last year. He worked mostly with the safeties but will shift outside this spring. Copeland is a former state champion sprinter from Ohio who sat out his freshman year like most rookies at Michigan State. He is among several young players who can push for playing time during the month of April. If someone is going to continue the Spartans rich recent history at cornerback, it probably will be one of these three.