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Michigan State announces weekly captains for season opener versus Western Michigan

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 30 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - Pitt v Michigan State Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Michigan State has its first set of captains for the 2022 football season.

On Wednesday, the Spartans announced fifth-year senior safety Xavier Henderson, redshirt junior quarterback Payton Thorne and sixth-year senior punter Bryce Baringer as the captains for the season opener against the Western Michigan Broncos on Friday night (7 p.m. Eastern Time, ESPN2).

Henderson comes as no surprise, as he was the only Michigan State player to be named a captain for all 13 games in 2021 and is an unquestioned leader of this program. While Michigan State rotates captains weekly, expect that to be the case in 2022 as well.

Henderson, who earned third-team All-Big Ten honors by the media, recorded 96 tackles last season (tied for the team lead), 10 tackles for loss, three sacks, one interception and a forced fumble. He was named to the 2022 preseason Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list, Chuck Bednarik Award watch list, Jim Thorpe Award watch list and the Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list.

Thorne was also an expected name for the captain title in the season opener, and he will likely be a captain multiple times this season. In fact, head coach Mel Tucker has recently praised Thorne’s growth as a leader. Thorne, along with Henderson, will be looked upon by his teammates to lead the Spartans in 2022.

Last season, Thorne set the Michigan State program record for single-season touchdown passes with 27. He completed 60.3 percent of his passes and threw for 3,233 yards and 10 interceptions. He also added four rushing touchdowns, and earned All-Big Ten honorable mention recognition by both the coaches and media.

Thorne has been named to several 2022 preseason watch lists, including for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Manning Award, Walter Camp Player of the Year, Davey O’Brien Award and the Maxwell Award.

Baringer — who is on the 2022 Ray Guy Award preseason watch list — should be among the best punters in the entire nation in 2022. He currently ranks third all-time in Michigan State history, averaging 44.6 yards per punt. Baringer’s 48.4 yards per punt in 2021 set the single-season record at Michigan State. He will play a crucial role in 2022, flipping field position for the Spartans.

This article was updated Thursday night to reflect the fact ESPN moved the Western Michigan-Michigan State game to ESPN2.