It’s been a busy couple of weeks for The Only Colors team. We’ve covered the Emoni Bates commitment, the Max Christie commitment, and what those two recruits mean for Michigan State basketball moving forward, as well as covering Big Ten All-Decade honors and the breaking news that the Big Ten has moved to a conference-only football schedule (and for all fall sports), and just about everything else in between.
So, needless to say, our football positional preview posts went on a brief hiatus. We are now picking this series back up with the offensive line.
The offensive line has been arguably the most inconsistent and injury-riddled unit for the Michigan State Spartans over the past couple of seasons. The good news is MSU returns an absurd amount of experience in 2020, with 10 players who started at least one game last season. New head coach Mel Tucker also brought in highly-successful offensive line coach/run game coordinator Chris Kapilovic. Will this finally mean improved play in the trenches for the Spartans? We’ll see (assuming we play football at all this fall).
Expect a lot of competition for starting spots this season. As mentioned, MSU returns 10 players with starting experience, and could have two separate five-person units of offensive linemen if the team really wanted to do so. Again, though, it’s consistency and health that have escaped the offensive line. So even with returning a lot of bodies and experience, the actual level of play is what needs to be addressed.
Below are the five players who I expect to start, however, there will be a few guys who get reps on a rotational basis, as Kapilovic has said he would like to have a rotation of eight players, if possible. Spots such as left tackle, left guard and center are going to be key positional battles.
AJ Arcuri, left tackle, redshirt senior
Due to his experience and status as a fifth-year senior, I’m giving the slight nod to Arcuri over Devontae Dobbs to at least begin the season as the starting left tackle, but it could easily be Dobbs. Arcuri has played in 19 games with five career starts. All of his starts came in 2019 at the left tackle position, and he played in seven games overall last season. However, after being listed as the preseason stater, he missed the first five games of the season, and six games overall, due to a leg injury. Arcuri played 404 snaps in total in 2019, and also played in all 13 games in 2018, although that was primarily on special teams. Off of the field, Arcuri is a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree. As mentioned, the position battle between Arcuri and Dobbs is going to be a key one to watch in camp.
J.D. Duplain, left guard, sophomore
Duplain impressed as a true freshman in 2019, playing in 10 games total, and starting the final five games of the season (including the Pinstripe Bowl victory over Wake Forest) at left guard. Duplain made his collegiate debut against Northwestern, playing seven snaps, and got his first career start against Illinois, playing 81 snaps. As an early enrollee, Duplain originally started practicing with the Spartans on the defensive line, but quickly made the transition back to the offensive side of the ball. He was named as Michigan State’s “Most Outstanding Underclass Lineman” on offense in 2019. After playing 434 snaps last season and earning his first letter, Duplain should be the favorite to start at left guard, but could see some competition from Matt Carrick (who has primarily played right guard) or Blake Bueter (who has played all three spots on the interior).
Matt Allen, center, redshirt senior
Allen brings plenty of experience as a fifth-year senior and three-year letterwinner. He has played in 30 career games with 16 starts and should be favored to start at center. However, sophomore Nick Samac, who started four games last season while Allen battled injuries, is certainly going to push him. Injuries have been an issue for Allen, who missed four games in 2019 and three games in 2018. With that said, Allen started nine games in 2019 and seven games (with 10 total appearances) in 2018, while playing a total of 1,095 snaps over the past two seasons. Allen is also a member of the team’s Eagles Leadership Council, and was selected to the Academic All-Big Ten team in 2017.
Kevin Jarvis, right guard, redshirt junior
Jarvis is one of the most talented linemen on the roster, and was a highly-regarded recruit, ranking as the highest-rated prospect in Michigan State’s 2017 class. He was the No. 15 offensive guard in the nation, No. 4 player in the state of Illinois and No. 217 recruit overall, per the 247Sports Composite. Jarvis brings plenty of experience, having played in 25 career games with 20 starts (17 at right guard and three at right tackle) and more than 1,400 snaps overall. As a freshman, Jarvis started 10 games (and appeared in all 13) on his way to honorable mention All-Big Ten accolades. He then played in nine games (seven starts) as a sophomore, while dealing with injuries. Jarvis played in just three games in 2019 before suffering a season-ending leg injury, but preserved his redshirt. While Carrick could rotate in, Jarvis is a lock to start this season, barring injury.
Jordan Reid, right tackle, senior
Reid was the only Spartan lineman to start every game at the same position last season, and he also played more snaps than any other player on the team in both 2019 (950) and 2018 (964). His current starting streak of 26 consecutive games is the longest on the roster. Overall he has appeared in 39 career games with 27 starts. As a junior in 2019, Reid was named the team’s “Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman” (MSU Up Front Award), and as a sophomore in 2018 he received Michigan State’s “Outstanding Underclass Lineman Award” for offense. Reid is pretty much locked in as the starting right tackle as a senior, although Luke Campbell could challenge him for reps.
- Devontae Dobbs, tackle, redshirt freshman: Dobbs will compete with Arcuri for the starting left tackle spot, and could very well earn it, but at the very least, he will rotate in and get reps on a weekly basis. Dobbs was a highly-touted, four-star recruit and the highest rated-player in MSU’s 2019 class. He was also the No. 1 guard prospect in the entire 2019 class, but moved to tackle for the Spartans. Dobbs was also the No. 2 player in the state of Michigan overall, and the No. 51 player nationally. He played in four games (57 snaps) last season to preserve his redshirt. The future is bright for Dobbs.
- Matt Carrick, guard, redshirt junior: Carrick, a two-year letterwinner, has played in 24 career games, and started 11 contests at right guard (all starts coming in 2019). With Jarvis likely locked in as the starting right guard, I would guess Carrick will battle J.D. Duplain in camp for the starting left guard role. Carrick brings experience, size (6-foot-4, 322 pounds), and was one of the few offensive linemen to stay healthy last year, appearing in all 13 games, but Duplain may have the higher ceiling. Regardless of if he starts or not, Carrick will be part of the rotation.
- Nick Samac, center, sophomore: Similarly to Duplain, Samac got his chance as a true freshman and impressed. He filled in for the injured Matt Allen as the starting center for four games, and played in seven overall (328 snaps). Also like Duplain, Samac was an early enrollee in the spring of 2019. Samac was another highly-recruited guy in the 2019 class, ranking as the No. 35 guard in the nation, No. 22 player in Ohio and No. 592 overall recruit (per 247Sports Composite). While Allen may have the upper hand, Samac will challenge him, and will get reps.
- Blake Bueter, guard/center, redshirt junior: A former walk-on in 2018 who ended up earning a scholarship, Bueter is a versatile interior offensive linemen who has played right guard, center and left guard for the Spartans. Overall, Bueter has played in 24 games with nine starts. He appeared in 11 games in 2019 (two starts), and all 13 games in 2018 (seven starts). Bueter received the team’s Jim Adams Unsung Hero Award in 2018. He likely won’t come into the season as a starter, but is a solid, experienced backup the coaching staff should feel comfortable rotating in, or starting later on if injuries rack up amongst the interior offensive line.
- Luke Campbell, guard/tackle, redshirt senior: Campbell is another example of a player who brings experience and will compete for a starting role. Just like Bueter, he brings a ton of versatility. Campbell has played in 31 total games, with 26 starts, and has played every position except center. The 6-foot-5-inch, 305-pound linemen is likely to face off with fellow senior tackle Jordan Reid for the starting right tackle spot. Campbell is a three-time Academic All-American honoree, earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in 2017 and was named to the Big Ten Network’s All-Freshman team in 2017.
Others on the roster:
- Spencer Brown, redshirt freshman, guard/tackle: Redshirted as a true freshman and did not see game action. He was the first recruit to commit to the 2019 class, and ranked as the No. 40 tackle prospect in the nation that year.
- James Ohonba, redshirt sophomore, guard/tackle: After redshirting in 2018, Ohonba did not see game action in 2019. He was the No. 37 tackle in the class of 2018. Ohonba suffered some sort of knee injury late in his senior year of high school, which may be a contributing factor to his limiting playing time thus far.
- Damon Kaylor, redshirt freshman, tackle: Redshirted last season without playing a single snap. Kaylor was ranked as the No. 16 prospect in the state of Indiana, and No. 93 tackle, in the class of 2019.
- Jacob Isaia, redshirt sophomore, center/guard: A legacy Spartan, as the grandson of two-time All-American Bob Apisa, who played for MSU in the 1960s. After a redshirt season in 2018, Isaia played in six games (13 offensive snaps plus special teams), including a start at Michigan as a fullback. Isaia was the No. 17-ranked center in 2018.
- Mustafa Khaleefah, redshirt junior, tackle: Khaleefah was a three-star prospect out of Dearborn in 2017. He took a redshirt year as a true freshman and has played in seven games combined in 2018 and 2019. He played a career high 25 snaps versus Rutgers in 2019.
- Dan VanOpstall, redshirt sophomore, tackle: A walk-on in 2018, VanOpstall redshirted that season and is yet to see game action. He provides depth.
- Jack Henrichs, redshirt junior, tackle: Another walk-on, Henrichs joined the team in 2017. After redshirting as a true freshman and not seeing game action in 2018, Henrichs played in two games in 2019. He is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree.
- Dallas Fincher, guard, East Kentwood High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fincher, who was actually the first 2020 commit to the Spartans, was a highly-touted prospect at guard. According to the 247Sports Composite, he is the No. 24-ranked guard in the country and No. 469 nationally. He is also the No. 15 prospect in the state of Michigan. Fincher was the third-highest rated recruit in MSU’s 2020 class, behind only Darius Snow and Ricky White.
- Justin Stevens, tackle, Clarkson Football North in Mississauga, Ontario: Stevens is a bit of a project out of Canada, having only played American football and the offensive line position for a short period of time, but recruiting analysts are extremely high on his potential. He is the No. 2-ranked player in Ontario and has good size and length at 6-foot-6, 285 pounds (and he will likely bulk up his frame at MSU). He projects as a right tackle, but could also play left tackle or guard.
The Spartans return a wealth of experience, bring in a new offensive line coach who has a proven track record, and have plenty of depth to form a solid rotation. However, MSU still needs to remain healthy for the best results, and elevate its play to another level in the trenches to successfully compete against Big Ten defenders.