How Will Michigan State Replace 6 Starters On Defense?
Sparty rode an elite defense all the way to the Big Ten title in 2013, giving up only 13.2 points per game (third best in the country). Despite the emergence of Connor Cook and Jeremy Langford on the offensive end, the defense was the heart and soul of Michigan's State's first Rose Bowl win since 1988.
Fast forward 10 weeks and the coaching staff has the tall task of replacing over half of their starters on defense. If they want a repeat of performance of last year, they need to fill those holes this spring.
In the front four, Sparty loses starters Tyler Hoover and Micajah Reynolds up the middle. However, Narduzzi often rotated a lot at the defensive tackle position, sometimes as many as five or six deep, so there will be plenty of experienced guys able to step in.
Joel Heath and Damon Knox appear to be the early favorites to land the starting jobs held by Hoover and Reynolds last year, with Brandon Clemens as a possible dark horse.
The starting ends are occupied by Shilique Calhoun and Marcus Rush, but the depth at that position would get a huge boost if 5-star recruit Malik McDowell ever gets his mom to sign his letter of intent.
Middle linebacker Max Bullough and strong-side backer Denicos Allen were both seniors and leave huge gaps for Narduzzi and Mark Dantonio to fill.
Taiwan Jones started 13 games at the weak side last season, and will more than likely return in the same roll. Juniors Ed Davis and Darien Harris are the most likely candidates to replace Bullough and Allen, but Max's two younger brothers Riley (So.) and Byron (Fr.) will both look to put on a show this Spring and earn some playing time.
The biggest loss here is obviously Darqueze Dennard, who was arguably the best cornerback in the country last season. Sparty also loses safety Isaiah Lewis.
Trae Waynes was overlooked last year because of Dennard, but he is very good, and is more than capable of filling the role of No. 1 cornerback for Narduzzi's defense. Wayne's old job at No. 2 is very wide open, however, where Darian Hicks, Arjen Colquhoun, and Jermaine Edmonson will all have an opportunity to win the job during spring practice.
The safety position seems to be easier to fill. RJ Williamson filled in well last season for Lewis, as he was in and out of the lineup with injuries. Williamson looks to take on the strong safety role full-time next season, but backup running back Delton Williams may get an opportunity to show what he can do at safety at some point this spring.