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Next Big Thing: Wide Receiver

MSU’s passing game will look a lot different in 2017. Which wideout will reap the rewards?

NCAA Football: Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier in the series we took a look at the tight end position and noted that it was a spot that will see all new faces next year. Well now we will look at the other pass catching position, wide receiver, and much like tight end, there will be quite a bit of turnover this year.

R.J. Shelton and Monty Madaris are gone, along with their 77 catches and 1,099 yards. They, along with Josiah Price, represent three of the top five Spartans in terms of receiving yards from last season. Once again, that is a lot of production that will need to be replaced.

So who will step up? Well Felton Davis III is the most experienced, heading into his junior season. There are a lot of people excited about some young players like incoming freshman Hunter Rison, whose father Andre was one of the best Spartan receivers of all time. But if there is one guy I think has a chance to really break out, it is sophomore Trishton Jackson.

Nic Antaya (The State News)

Jackson appeared in nine games last year as a freshman, hauling in five passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. He came in to Michigan State as an athlete, and there is no better term to describe him. Jackson did everything for his high school team, West Bloomfield, accounting for over 1,800 yards as a senior and nearly 3,000 yards as a junior. Oh, he was also a four year starter on the basketball team and was an all-state selection twice.

Jackson is listed at 6-1, 183 pounds, and certainly looks to have the size to be a legit threat at the wideout position. What really stood out though, was his performance in the MSU spring game, as he established himself as Brian Lewerke’s favorite target. Jackson grabbed eight catches for 168 yards, including an impressive one-handed grab.

One of the things we saw from Connor Cook in his time as a starter was an ability to get into sync with a guy who would become his go-to guy. If the spring game is any indication, Trishton Jackson might be filling that role for Brian Lewerke. If that is the case, he will be in line to have a big season for the green and white.

Another area where Jackson could potential have an impact is on special teams. Jackson has the athletic ability to be a weapon in the return game as well, and with R.J. Shelton gone, that is certainly a spot that will need filling. He got some work returning punts during the spring game so I wouldn’t be shocked if he gets a shot at that spot to start the season as well.

Something that has been a theme so far in these “next big thing” pieces is the need for Michigan State to find playmakers, something that it was sorely lacking last season. Jackson fits that mold as well as anyone. While Felton could be a nice possession receiver, what the Spartans really need is a guy that can make a big play for them. Lewerke to Jackson certainly has the feel of a potential big play combo.