Michigan State only lost one member of its 2017 offense, but it was a big one. Brian Allen was the rock, not only on the offensive line, but for the entire offense. Before Brian Lewerke could take over the team, and even after, it was Allen who was quite literally the driving force for Michigan State.
But somehow, even after losing Allen to the NFL, the Spartans offensive line may actually improve in 2018.
Key Losses: Brian Allen
At the start of last season, Allen was one of the few people on the offensive side of the ball that anyone could trust. The senior center was nothing short of dominant in the league throughout the season.
Allen was one of the two team captains, but he didn’t need the title to act as the leader. No one on the Spartans current roster will completely fill Allen’s role, but there is a chance that they could collectively pick up what he left behind.
Returning Starters: Cole Chewins (LT), David Beedle (LG), Kevin Jarvis (RG), Luke Campbell (RT), Matt Sokol (TE)
Bringing back four-fifths of an already strong offensive line is a huge bonus for Michigan State. Obviously, an o-line is only at it’s best when healthy, so avoiding injuries is huge. The line is still young, both Jarvis and Campbell are only sophomores.
The left side features more seniority. Beedle, a senior and Chewins, a junior, will be looked to for some of the leadership left behind.
Sokol was a top-five pass catcher for the Spartans and proved to be a dependable receiver, with the capability to be left in on running plays for blocking.
Other Returning Players: Matt Allen, Matt Dotson
There may be someone new snapping the ball for Michigan State, but they won’t have to change the depth chart much. Matt Allen continues the Allen legacy on the MSU offensive line, following behind Brian and eldest brother Jack.
Living up to his brothers’ standards may be too much to ask, both Brian and Jack reached the NFL. But as a sophomore, Matt is expected to be the starting center for MSU.
At tight end, Dotson could jump out early in the season. Another sophomore, Dotson was a huge recruiting win for MSU last year. Coming out of high school he was a top 10 tight end in the nation, recruited heavily by Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan, among others.
Dotson is a pass catching tight end, with speed to split a defense and the hands to be a reliable third-down threat.
Possible Impact Freshman: Mustafa Khaleefah
A redshirt freshman, Khaleefah is backing up Chewins at left tackle. Khaleefah was a three-star recruit coming out of Dearborn. But quite honestly, unless Khaleefah shows something in practice, Spartans fans should hope they don’t see much of him this season.
It seems almost insane to say that a positive for an offensive lineman that features three sophomores is experience. But the consistency and durability through last year was huge for not only the o-line, but the entire Spartans offense.
That experience is especially impactful considering the MSU quarterback. Brian Lewerke is at his best when on the move, which can often be an issue for an offensive line. But this group has already found success with Lewerke, and knows how to stay focused in big moments.
They also may have a tight end pairing that can be truly problematic for defenses. Sokol will definitely be the starter at the beginning of the year, and his ability to be an asset in both the run and passing game is huge. On top of that, if Dotson looks ready to become the next dangerous tight end in East Lansing. Adding a player like Dotson to the MSU passing game would give Lewerke another big target.
It’s never comfortable to bring in a new center. An inexperienced center, even one from the Allen family tree, is something that could immediately slow down any offense.
Additionally, with all the good things that come from a durable offensive line, comes the negatives of the what-ifs. If one of the starters goes down, there isn’t much experience coming onto the field.
X-Factor: Matt Dotson
It feels strange referencing a backup tight end so many times, but Dotson can be an immediate difference maker for Michigan State. At 6-foot-5, 234-pounds, Dotson gives Michigan State the athletic tight end that everyone in the country wants.
He still has plenty of room to grow, but he has shown more than once that he has the ability to be electric down the field. He has good hands and dangerous speed. If he puts it all together, Dotson will be circled on every scouting report before the end of the year.