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Michigan State Spartans Football 2015 Position Previews: Tight Ends and Fullbacks

Joe starts off the position previews for 2015

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Key Loss

TE Andrew Gleichert was kind of an unsung guy over the course of his MSU career, but played an important role for this team last year as a primarily blocking tight end. He started eleven games over three seasons, and also was the backup fullback in 2014. The most memorable moment of his was a clutch catch for a first down against Boise State in 2012... that catch ended up being his only catch of that season. Still, this is a bit of an interesting hole to fill. Gleichert will be missed.

Top Returnees

Junior TE Josiah Price had 26 receptions for 374 yards and six touchdowns a year ago, which makes him third leading returning receiver going into 2015. This earned him honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in 2014, and he figures to be an important piece next year. Price is probably the most exciting returning tight end since Dion Sims in 2012. He should be a first or second team All Big Ten guy this year if he takes another step forward.

Strangely, Price only started six games last year, the same number as Gleichert. You have to figure that this is due to his relative weakness in run-blocking. If Price can become an every-down tight end, the sky is the limit for him. Oh, and he needs to figure out whether or not he should wear gloves.

Junior TE Jamal Lyles was listed as a co-starter with Price and Gleichert for much of 2014, and he's sure to see plenty of time in 2015. Lyles flipped around to the offensive side of the ball in 2013, and came on strong along with Price that season. The good news for Lyles is that his listed weight is up to 260 from 251 last season, and hopefully that means he's ready to take on an increased workload as a blocker.

Senior FB Trevon Pendleton is one of the most underrated players on the roster. Pendleton had a terrific Rose Bowl at the end of the 2013 season (other than a personal foul) which highlighted his importance to this team. Trevon is trusted in run blocking and pass protection, and is a capable pass catcher as well (my favorite was the 49-yard catch in 2013 vs. Michigan). Pendleton will be an important piece of the offense, though you might not notice him much.

Senior TE Paul Lang has been relatively lightly used, and I believe a lot of that has to do with a lingering back injury which made him miss all of spring practice in both 2011 and 2012. He's healthy now, though, and I figure he'll get some run as a blocker. Lang actually got four starts last year, when MSU lined up in two-tight end sets.

New Faces

Sophomore TE Dylan Chmura is the son of former Green Bay Packer Mark Chmura. His bio also says he could see time at fullback, and that makes sense given the logjam at tight end in front of him. Chmura's size (6'4, 245) suggests to me that he's probably in the Price/Lyles pass-catching genre of tight ends. That could make it difficult for him to see the field.

Redshirt Freshman TE Matt Sokol was an early enrollee last year and was a high school quarterback. Those factors seem to be positives going forward, but for now he's pretty far behind in the line for playing time, given that he's probably also a pass-catching specialist. As always, if he's getting some run on special teams, that's a positive sign.

Junior FB David "Refrigerator" Fennell was originally recruited as a defensive tackle, and is listed at 6'2, 305. This seems to be in the Lawrence Thomas vein of, "let's get this dude on the field somewhere." I'm hoping he gets a touch or two.

The Upshot

This is an experienced, skilled group that should be a strength for this Spartan team. The one area where playing time could be won is at blocking tight end; if Chmura or Sokol show that they're competent in that area they could shoot up the depth chart. Still, this group has as good of a fullback as you'll find in the country in Pendleton, and an All Big Ten guy in Price. Assuming that a blocking tight end emerges, this could be one of the strongest position groups for MSU in 2015.