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Projecting Michigan State’s starters and depth chart versus Indiana

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NCAA Football: Michigan State at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Week Seven for the Michigan State Spartans, as MSU travels to Bloomington, Indiana to face the Hoosiers. To this point, head coach Mel Tucker has not released a depth chart this season. Using prior game result and reports about the roster, I have made my predictions below for the starters and reserves (offensive statistics from last week’s performance against Rutgers are listed in parentheses next to each player).

Quarterback

Starter: Payton Thorne (Passing: 16-for-27, 339 yards, three touchdowns, one interception; one rush for 9 yards

Backup: Anthony Russo (Did not play)

Thorne threw several bombs against Rutgers and averaged a gaudy 12.6 yards per attempt. That makes back-to-back 300-plus yard passing games where Thorne accounted for multiple touchdowns. The only hiccups were an (acrobatic) interception and some questionable time management at the end of the half.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Running Back

Starter: Kenneth Walker III (29 carries, 233 yards, one touchdown; one reception for 13 yards)

Backup: Jordon Simmons (one carry, four yards); Harold Joiner (three carries, 14 yards)

Walker is the leading rusher in the nation and had the longest play from scrimmage in Michigan State history with a 94-yard run against Rutgers last week. So things are going well at the starting position.

Simmons had a quiet day with Joiner getting more reserve opportunities. We could also soon see Elijah Collins return from injury, though that probably won’t occur until at least the Michigan game.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Wide receivers

Starters: Jayden Reed (three receptions, 29 yards; one rush for four yards), Jalen Nailor (five receptions, 221 yards, three touchdowns), Tre Mosley (four receptions, 59 yards)

Backups: Montorie Foster, Terry Lockett, Christian Fitzpatrick

Nailor had one of the most prolific receiving outings in Spartan history with 221 yards, the fourth most ever in a single game — and most of that was accomplished in the first half — and also set a SHI Stadium record for most receiving yards in a single game. Reed had a rather quiet day, which is unsurprising considering Nailor’s efforts. Mosley remains under the radar as the steady third option in the wide receiver trio.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Tight end/H-Back

Starter: Connor Heyward (three receptions, 17 yards)

Backup: Tyler Hunt (no receptions, no targets); Maliq Carr (no receptions, no targets)

Heyward hauled in a few throws, and his main duties were blocking assignments for Walker runs.

The tight end position remains unproductive in the passing attack, and for the third week in a row, a tight end outside of Heyward did not log a reception. Hopefully soon the tight end position will be involved (and if so, the defense will likely be caught off-guard!).

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Left tackle

Starter: Jarrett Horst

Backup: Dan VanOpstall

Michigan State shows no signs of discontinuing its two-group rotation for the offensive line. At least 10 different players are receiving consistent snaps. It should be noted James Ohonba and Jacob Isaia also saw action against the Scarlet Knights, though I believe their duties were with the special teams unit. Blake Bueter, who generally plays with the second group as a guard, was named a captain this week.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Left guard

Starter: J.D. Duplain

Backup: Blake Bueter

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 09 Michigan State at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Center

Starter: Matt Allen

Backup: Nick Samac

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 09 Michigan State at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Right guard

Starter: Kevin Jarvis

Backup: Matt Carrick

Rutgers v Michigan State Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Right tackle

Starter: AJ Arcuri

Backup: Luke Campbell

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 09 Michigan State at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Defensive tackles

Starters: Jacob Slade and Simeon Barrow

Backup: Dashaun Mallory, Jalen Hunt, Maverick Hansen, and Kyle King

There was a subtle change in the rotation with Mallory returning to action and Hunt being sidelined. Slade and Barrow are maintaining the interior respectfully. Slade had a fumble recovery and Barrow was responsible for two sacks.

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Michigan State Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive ends

Starters: Jacub Panasiuk and Jeff Pietrowski

Backup: Drew Jordan, Michael Fletcher

The defensive ends remain steady despite the absence of Drew Beesley who will likely remain out this week with a foot injury. Panasiuk and Jordan both logged a half sack versus Rutgers. It is unknown when Beesley will return, and Mel Tucker does not give status reports on players, however, it is not expected his injury is season-ending.

Syndication: Lansing State Journal Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Linebackers

Starters: Quavaris Crouch, Cal Haladay

Backups: Ben VanSumeren, Noah Harvey, Ma’a Gaoteote,

Despite Rutgers running the ball 36 of its 58 plays from scrimmage, the linebackers had a quiet day with 13 tackles total cumulatively. Haladay was noticeably active upon his return in the second half after being forced to sit the first half due to a targeting call against Western Kentucky the previous week.

Syndication: Lansing State Journal Nick King/Lansing State Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Cornerbacks

Starters: Ronald Williams, Chester Kimbrough

Backups: Charles Brantley, Marqui Lowery

There is a new body in the two-deep at cornerback, as Lowery made his debut in the defensive backfield against the Scarlet Knights. Lowery perhaps got away with being too aggressive, but it was nice to see another new player added into the mix at a thin position.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Nickelback

Starter: Michael Dowell

Backup: Darius Snow

Dowell still leads, but Snow received a good deal of playing time and led the team in tackles with nine. Due to player positioning and camera views, which sometimes eliminate back end defenders, it is difficult to be certain how many snaps Snow saw at nickelback and safety individually.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Safeties

Starters: Xavier Henderson and Angelo Grose

Backups: Darius Snow, Kendell Brooks

Henderson and Grose provide the most consistent and reliable efforts on the defensive side of the ball, and both remain on the field for the vast majority of plays.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Special teams

Placekicker

Starter: Matt Coghlin

Backup: Stephen Rusnak OR Evan Johnson

Coghlin experienced some more complicated circumstances, this time a field goal attempt was blocked after two consecutive timeouts by Greg Schiano. There was also the odd fake field goal attempt early in the game. There are certainly some things to clean up in the field goal-kicking department. He has awesome hair.

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Michigan State Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Punter

Starter: Bryce Baringer

Backup: Cody Waddell

For the day, Baringer booted four punts of respectable distance and accuracy. His most notable action was a rushing attempt on the aforementioned fake field goal, which resulted in a three-yard loss.

Michigan State v Rutgers Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Punt/Kick returner

Starter: Jayden Reed/Jalen Nailor

Backup: Jayden Reed/Jalen Nailor

The two explosive starting wide receivers remain the returners, and their opportunities to return kicks will likely be limited.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Long snapper

Starter: Hank Pepper

Backup: Michael Donovan

True freshman Hank Pepper continues to be responsible for the long snapping duties.