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Malik McDowell one of biggest impact players in college football

Malik McDowell is one of college football's truly elite defenders.

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Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Strong defenses have often been a theme at Michigan State under Mark Dantonio, and that's not about to change in 2016.

While the Spartans have a talented unit with depth all over, the guy who's going to play a big role in this defense being elite is Malik McDowell. The 6-6, 280-pound defensive lineman was a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2015 after notching 41 tackles,13 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and 4.5 sacks.

Not only should McDowell pick up more all-conference honors in 2016, but may earn some All-American votes while being in contention for several national awards. He's already picking up plenty of preseason honors, which continued in CBS Sports' ranking of the 50 biggest impact players in college football this year.

36. Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State: After playing every game as a freshman in 2014, McDowell became a starter on the Spartans defense last year and caused plenty of havoc doing so. He finished with 41 tackles, including 13 for a loss, and had 4.5 sacks with eight quarterback hurries. His coaches say McDowell will be "everywhere" on the defensive line this season, and he'll have to be as the Spartans lost guys like Shilique Calhoun, Lawrence Thomas and Joel Heath. McDowell is going to be the face of the Michigan State defenss, and he certainly has the talent and ability to become a household name in the college football world.

This is just one of many preseason honors for McDowell, now entering his junior season. The guys at Pro Football Focus recently did a ranking of the top 101 players in college football next season, and McDowell came in at No. 23. He was also pegged as the No. 2 interior defensive lineman to watch in college football this season by