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Position Preview 2013: Offensive line


A position-by-position look at the 2013 Spartans. Since the quarterbacks are going to draw the most ire, I'm working backward. Next up: the offensive line. Previously:Defensive line, linebackers, defensive backs

The season hasn't even started, and the Angry MSU Offensive Lineman-Hating God is already on the attack.

Tackle Skyler Burkland retired due to injuries before his junior year early in camp. Jack Allen has an undisclosed injury (looks like his foot) and will probably be out for the opener. Fou Fonoti is also dealing with something and probably won't start the game. Weeeee! (in a Mike Valenti voice)

Assuming no one dies from an Allosaurus, here are the offensive line contributors for the fall.

Fou Fonoti (SR): The junior college transfer from California started 11 games in 2011 at right tackle, replacing the injured Burkland. Fonoti suffered a season-ending foot injury in practice before the third game and was replaced by Burkland. (A classic #AMSUOLHG troll). By most accounts, he's the best offensive lineman on the team and could have some professional opportunities, but these injuries aren't helping. Dantonio said Fonoti will be able to play on Friday. In most cases, you'd rather sit an injured guy if you don't need him, but the offensive line needs to gel with game experience, so hopefully he will see the field.

Jack Allen (SO): Started 12 games as a redshirt freshman, the first five at guard and seven at center after Travis Jackson's season-ending injury. (Are you sending a trend?) Allen earned Freshman All-American honors last season and is/was expected to start at right guard. He missed spring with shoulder surgery and now has some sort of leg/foot injury. It's unclear how long he will be out. A former champion wrestler, Allen showed a lot of promise last season, and his future would appear to be bright.

Travis Jackson (JR): Started 10 games as a redshirt freshman in 2011 and earned Freshman All-American honors, but missed some early time due to injuries. Broke his leg and suffered a knee injury against Ohio State in the Big Ten opener in 2012, ending his season. Has performed very well when healthy and is on the watch list for the nation's best center.

Blake Treadwell (SR): Mark Dantonio's godson and former offensive coordinator Don Treadwell's actual son, Treadwell spent time on offense and defense, has battled injuries along the way and has seemingly been around forever. He played nine games at defensive tackle in 2009 as a true freshman. He played nine games on defense again in 2010, but missed some time with a leg injury. Played center for the first three games of 2011 before a knee injury ended his year and resulted in a medical redshirt. (He was replaced by Jackson). Started seven games at left guard last season but missed the first four with a knee injury suffered in camp. He has dealt with injuries every year, but was voted a captain by his teammates. If he can stay healthy, he's still really talented.

Jack Conklin (R-FR): Certainly the surprise of the group. Conklin wasn't even rated by recruiting services and signed with MSU well after Signing Day 2012. He bulked up after his high school career ended, and that has continued at MSU. He impressed in the spring and his future appeared bright. The future became now when he overtook two-year starter Dan France for the left tackle job, which was very encouraging. It looks like Conklin could be a four-starter if he stays healthy. (He won't, because, have you been reading everything else in this post?)

Dan France (SR): Another guy who bounced around on offense and defense, France started at left tackle the last two seasons. He hasn't been great, but he's been serviceable (and healthy). Conklin beating him out means France has moved to a backup role. With Allen out, it looks like France is starting at right guard. He's a bit tall for a guard, but co-offensive coordinator / tight ends coach Jim Bollman has been known to shuffle players all over the line. Will it work? MSU doesn't really have much of a choice.

Donovan Clark (SO): Expected to be the starting right tackle next year, he will likely be starting against Western Michigan in place of Fonoti. He showed some promise, but also some expected mistakes, in some time as a redshirt freshman last year. The upside is there, and he'll probably be called upon quite a bit.

Zach Higgins (R-FR): Was scout team offensive player of the week prior to the Indiana game. Listed as backup left guard. A three-star recruit out of Ohio.

Benny McGowan (R-FR): Redshirted last season after being a three-star recruit out of Ohio. Has drawn positive reports out of camp. Listed as backup right guard, but that's not including Allen.

Connor Kruse (JR): A former walk-on who redshirted in 2010 with a knee injury. Played in three blowouts in 2011 and earned scout team offensive player of the week before Wisconsin. He was awarded a scholarship before the 2012 season and he played in 12 games, mostly on special teams. He's listed as the backup center, but I imagine Allen would move over there (if healthy) if Jackson went down again.

Kodi Kieler (R-FR): Redshirted last year, listed as third-string right tackle.

Dennis Finley (FR): The only incoming freshman offensive lineman, Finley is expected to redshirt.