"We're deep right now - and it's fun."

"We're deep right now - and it's fun."

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"We're deep right now - and it's fun."

Michigan State’s preseason camp is underway.  Nearly the entire starting lineup returns from the 10-3 team of 2017.  The depth up and down the roster has the Spartans hungry and confident.

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When John L. Smith was the head man in East Lansing, there was a moment in John L’s second season, 2004, when it felt like the team – and, perhaps the program – was about to get over a massive hump.

After the Spartans had a surprisingly strong 8-5 showing in John L’s first season, 2003, Michigan State had a bit of a herky-jerky first half to 2004.

But when October 30th rolled around and the Spartans headed to Ann Arbor, Michigan State was 4-3 and had won two straight including an impressive 51-17 win over 19th ranked Minnesota the week before.

And, with 5:44 left to play in the game at #14 UMAA, Michigan State looked like world beaters as they rolled up a 27-10 lead.

Then UMAA’s All Universe wide receiver, Braylon Edwards , took over as UMAA realized that the 6’3″ superstar had an advantage, to say the least, over Michigan State’s best option in coverage, the 5’9″ cornerback, Jaren Hayes.

Hayes had bounced around on the Michigan State team from offense to defense and contributed some big plays as a running back.

But, injuries, attrition, and a lackluster approach to recruiting left Michigan State in a position where its lack of depth required Jaren Hayes to play cornerback.

And he was needed in the Spartans’ attempt to shut down Braylon Edwards.

It didn’t work.

Edwards caught two touchdown passes in the final 5:44 of regulation – with Hayes trying his best to pester Edwards – and a third in triple overtime to give UMAA a 45-37 win that broke the hearts of Spartans and shut the door on the possibility of getting over any hump.

Hayes was not to blame for the inability to keep Edwards from giving everyone a fireworks display.

It was Michigan State’s serious lack of depth that put the Spartans in that position.

And, in 2018, it’s almost quaint to look back on a period when the program was so thin.

As the Spartans kicked off preseason practice yesterday, one of the team’s leaders and potential All Americans, Joe Bachie, had a comment that crystalizes just how far this program has come and how it’s in position to accomplish big things this season.

“I’m telling you, we’re deep right now and it’s fun.”

He’s right.

Michigan State is deep up and down the roster.

As anyone paying attention now knows, the Spartans return all but three starters from last season’s 10-3 turnaround squad.

But it’s the two-deep and even three-deep depth that makes this team truly dangerous.

Linebacker:

Bachie, Andrew Dowell, Antjuan Simmons, Tyriq Thompson, Byron Bullough, Brandon Randle, and Grayson Miller.

Every one of these guys would start on most Big Ten teams and every one of these guys is capable of playing winning football.

And there are freshmen and redshirt freshmen reinforcements that are ready to get in line.

Offensive Line:

Tyler Higby, Cole Chewins, David Beedle, AJ Acuri, Luke Campbell, Kevin Jarvis, Jordan Reid, Noah Listermann, and Matt Allen.

That list doesn’t include a collection of freshmen and redshirt freshmen ready to learn.

The main batch of beefeaters that make up Michigan State’s offensive line are versatile, athletic, fast, and experienced and it makes for a unit that has interchangeable parts that will provide……depth.

Wide Receiver and Tight End:

Felton Davis, Cody White, Cam Chambers, Darrell Stewart, Matt Sokol, Brandon Sowards, Noah Davis, Matt Dotson, Chase Gianacakos, Laress Nelson, Matt Seybert.

Aside from potential future NFLers Davis and White, the units are loaded with guys that have played winning football.

Running Back and Fullback:

LJ Scott, Connor Heyward, and redshirt freshman Weston Bridges.  Plus Reid Burton, Ben Line, Collin Lucas, and Max Rosenthal all ready to provide power at fullback.

That’s a unit that’s fully loaded.

Defensive Line:

Kenny Willekes, Raequan Willians, Naquan Jones, Mufi Hill-Hunt, Gerald Owens, Jacob Panasiuk, and Mike Panasiuk.

Someone needs to emerge as a powerful presence on the edge to complement Kenny Willekes but this gang, as a unit, is full of guys who have already played winning football.

Reminder – this gang contributed to the Spartans finishing last season with the #2 defense in the nation against the run.

Only Demetrius Cooper is gone from that #2 against the run unit.

Secondary:

Khari Willis, David Dowell, Josh Butler, Justin Layne, Dominique Long, Tre Person, Josiah Scott – and brand new faces like Shakur Brown, Kalon Gervin, and Xavier Henderson.

We loved Jaren Hayes – but he wouldn’t get a sniff among this unit of guys that are ready to become one of the best secondaries in the nation.

Quarterback?

Of course the Spartans have a guy in Brian Lewerke who is already living up to the standards set by NFLers Brian Hoyer, Drew Stanton, Kirk Cousins, and Connor Cook.

And while there isn’t any doubt that a Lewerke-less Spartan squad would be considerably different than the one with the guy under center every snap all season long, Rocky Lombardi and Theo Day make up a pair of backup quarterbacks that might be the best batch of backup quarterbacks the program has had in as long as anyone can remember.

None of this is meant to suggest that the two-deepers should be anointed in any way.

However, if anyone can point to a another Michigan State football team over the last 30 years with this much true, talented, and experienced depth, I’d like to know which team that was.

Joe Bachie is dead-on right – this team is deep.

And when a team is deep, and the depth doesn’t just consist of bodies but, rather, players who have already shown that they can contribute to a team’s ability to reach the College Football Playoff and achieve 10-win seasons, that means that Bachie is right about the second part of his revealing comment after yesterday’s first practice –

The season can be fun.

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