On Tuesday, the team released a new depth chart that did not include star defensive lineman Malik McDowell. The junior defender missed the Rutgers game after leaving the loss to Illinois with an ankle injury.
Head coach Mark Dantonio later revealed that the injury is threatening to keep McDowell out this week, but it’s not set in stone just yet.
"Right now he's out but we'll see," Dantonio said. "I didn't want to list him as a No. 2. He's not a No. 2, but I just didn't how to list him based on last week when he was out. He'll either start for us, or be able to play. We'll see as the week goes on."
The Spartans have lined McDowell up in just about every spot along the defensive line and made a big impact regardless of where it was. While McDowell hasn't had the same success in 2016 (4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks) as he did last year (13 TFLs and 4.5 sacks), but he’s still a force on a defensive line that is dangerously thin and young without him.
True freshman defensive end Josh King and defensive tackle Mike Panasiuk, as well as redshirt freshman tackle Raequan Williams and sophomore defensive end Robert Bowers, are now the starting defensive linemen.
The good news is, with Michigan State out of the bowl mix and just trying to be respectable over the next two weeks, McDowell has said the team's struggles won't impact his decision to either return for his senior season or leave for the NFL Draft.
"No matter how it goes, I'm not really thinking about it, I'm just trying to finish out the season," McDowell told MLive.com. "I haven't really been having that on my mind too much."
Before the season began, McDowell said he wouldn't go pro unless he was a top-three pick in the 2017 draft. It’s hard to say how high he would go right now if he does leave, but McDowell isn’t worrying about the NFL while he’s still a Spartan.
"Nobody knows besides the people that are actually going to (make the picks)," McDowell said. "I don't really pay any attention to it unless it's something legit and that ain't legit."