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Projecting Michigan State’s starters and depth chart versus Miami (FL)

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Michigan State Spartans head coach Mel Tucker refuses to release depth charts to the public, so I will. Here we go (offensive statistics from last week’s performance against Youngstown State listed in parentheses next to each starter).

Quarterback

Starter: Payton Thorne (Passing: 15-for-21 280 yards, four touchdowns; three rushes for 19 yards)

Backup: Anthony Russo (Passing: five-for-seven for 43 yards; three rushes for 10 yards)

Last week, Thorne hit on some deep passes, which were missed in the season opener against Northwestern, resulting in four scores on just 21 passes. This was Thorne’s best outing of his young career to date, and the only questions that remain are can he do this on a more consistent basis and can he do this versus quality competition? We will find out on Saturday.

Russo got some action as expected, and it was a mixed bag with an ugly ending. On the last offensive play Russo fumbled the ball and left the stadium in a walking boot. Early reports are Russo appears available to backup Thorne this week, but we will see.

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Running Back

Starter: Kenneth Walker III (seven carries, 57 yards, one touchdown)

Backup: Jordon Simmons (16 carries, 121 yards; one reception for seven yards)

Walker was essentially given the day off after working through the first few series. Again, he showed explosiveness and a nose for the for the end zone on limited opportunities.

Simmons received the bulk of the rushing duties and built upon his status as the No. 2 running back with well over 100 yards on on the ground. Harold Joiner saw limited action after a nasty hit in the Northwestern game, but perhaps he’ll play more against Miami. Elijah Collins and Donovan Eaglin took a few turns mashing Penguins, Collins added a screen pass reception for a touchdown before leaving the game with a foot injury.

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Wide receivers

Starters: Jayden Reed (four receptions, 181 yards, two touchdowns ), Jalen Nailor (four receptions, 39 yards), Tre Mosley (one reception, seven yards)

Backups: Montorie Foster, Terry Lockett, Ian Stewart, Christian Fitzpatrick, Keon Coleman

Against YSU, MSU went with a two-wide receiver, one tight end, one h-back alignment to start the game. Reed is now separating himself as the top target for the passing offense after a monstrous day. Lockett, Foster, Stewart, and Coleman all registered at least one catch versus the Penguins, which Fitzpatrick also being targeted on a play unsuccessfully.

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Tight end/H-Back

Starter: Connor Heyward (zero receptions)

Backup: Tyler Hunt (two receptions, 16 yards)

Heyward and Hunt both got the start in Week Two. Hunt finished with two receptions while Heyward received one empty target. There was an early Maliq Carr sighting and he found his first reception as a Spartan. Trenton Gillison also hauled in one ball on the day.

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Left tackle

Starter: Jarrett Horst

Backup: Luke Campbell, Dan VanOpstall

A repeat of last week, Horst was penalized for his aggressiveness and Luke Campbell stepped in for some snaps. VanOpstall got some field time again at tackle and is direct competition with Spencer Brown for live ball repetitions.

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Left guard

Starter: J.D. Duplain

Backup: Blake Bueter

More of the same, consistency is being sought by the staff and it is taking shape on the offensive live.

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

Center

Starter: Matt Allen

Backup: Nick Samac

Allen is widening the gap between he and Samac, to this point he has logged twice as many snaps as the younger center. Samac did leave last week’s game with an injury, so his status for this week is something to monitor.

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

Right guard

Starter: Kevin Jarvis

Backup: Matt Carrick

It continues to be Jarvis starting and Carrick getting reps at right guard. James Ohonba also got sprinkled in on a few plays against Youngstown State.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Right tackle

Starter: AJ Arcuri

Backup: Luke Campbell, Spencer Brown

Arcuri got dinged up again, but nothing apparently too serious. Campbell, Brown and VanOpstall rounded out the crew for tackles

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Michigan State Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive tackles

Starters: Jacob Slade and Simeon Barrow

Backup: Deshaun Mallory, Jalen Hunt, Maverick Hansen, Kyle King

Surprisingly, Barrow, along with Slade, got the assignment as starters last week. Barrow appears for the moment to have passed Mallory for a bigger part of the workload. Injuries have been a concerning theme so far for the defensive line — Slade and Barrow are both dealing with hand injuries and Jalen Hunt is working through a foot issue as well. Last week, King, Hansen and Derrick Harmon all saw extended time based on the mix of the injuries and the opponent faced.

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Defensive ends

Starters: Drew Beesley and Jacub Panasiuk

Backup: Drew Jordan, Jeff Pietrowski, Michael Fletcher, Jack Camper

As stated previously, the defensive line is dealing with injuries, and is the area of most concern due to health right now. Beesley, Jordan and Itayvion Brown did not appear in the game versus the Penguins. For starters, MSU had Jeff Pietrowski and Jacub Panasiuk holding down the edges. The rotation of bodies during the game was a busy as any position has been on this season, with Camper, Fletcher, Zach Slade, Avery Dunn and Brandon Wright all seeing opportunities throughout the game. Beesley and Jordan are expected back for the tilt against Miami on Saturday, but Brown is expected to miss this game as well (which is why he is not listed above).

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Linebackers

Starters: Cal Haladay, Quavaris Crouch

Backups: Chase Kline, Ben VanSumeren, Noah Harvey

Thankfully, the linebacker corp remains and unscathed (although VanSumeren did leave the game at one point last week). Haladay and Crouch put in another solid performance with Kline and VanSumeren as the primary reserves. Harvey got a little more playing time than he did against Northwestern and the top-rated recruit of the 2021 Class, Ma’a Gaoteote saw his first action in college.

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Cornerbacks

Starters: Ronald Williams, Kalon Gervin

Backups: Chester Kimbrough, Charles Brantley, Marqui Lowery, Khary Crump

There were statements from the staff that cornerback would remain an ongoing competition as the standard of play was less than desired. Gervin got the call again, but Kimbrough replaced Williams to begin the game. Brantely continues to be worked in and I believe Justin White and Emmanuel Flowers snagged some time in the later stages of the match as well. Even though he struggled against Northwestern in the opener, it is my belief Williams will return as the starter, as he was widely viewed as MSU’s top cornerback going into the season.

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Nickelback

Starter: Michael Dowell

Backup: Darius Snow

All went according to schedule with the nickel position, and there is nothing really to touch on other than it appears to be a quiet (in a good way) position with Dowell starting and Snow getting plenty of reps.

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Safeties

Starters: Xavier Henderson and Angelo Grose

Backups: Darius Snow, Kendell Brooks

Henderson looks like the top defender on the squad — his interception last week was seen on all the highlight reels. Grose got the nod next to Henderson again, with Snow giving them breaks periodically. Brooks appeared more often this past Saturday, while Spencer Rowland took his first snaps from scrimmage in Division 1 football.

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Special teams

Placekicker

Starter: Matt Coghlin

Backup: Stephen Rusnak OR Evan Johnson

Coghlin remains the guy, however, I wish the staff would stop asking him to kick 50-plus yard field goal attempts.

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Punter

Starter: Bryce Baringer

Backup: Cody Waddell

Baringer had two great long punts inside the 20-yard-line, and one punt which was blocked. When he receives an errant snap, he needs to be quicker in his process.

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Punt/Kick returner

Starter: Jayden Reed/Jalen Nailor

Backup: Jayden Reed/Jalen Nailor

The top wide receivers continue to handle these responsibilities. Please stay healthy.

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Long snapper

Starter: Hank Pepper

Backup: Michael Donovan

Pepper had a shaky snap which resulted in a blocked punt — growing pains of a true freshman.