The Michigan State Spartans will host the Minnesota Golden Gophers to open up Big Ten Conference play this Saturday, 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time, on the Big Ten Network. Minnesota comes in at 3-0, with all of the Gophers’ victories in decisive fashion against weak competition. Meanwhile, the Spartans seek to bounce back from a road loss against the Washington Huskies.
Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker will not provide the public with a depth chart, therefore after viewing the previous game and reading reports about the roster, here are my predictions for the MSU starters and reserves.
Starter: Payton Thorne
Backup: Noah Kim
Perhaps the best occurrence from the last outing against Washington was Thorne’s performance. Under a lot of duress and without support of the ground game, Thorne had his best outing of the early season. There were a couple of errors that were costly, but overall Thorne was a bright spot in a dismal game.
No other quarterback appeared in the game last week, but Noah Kim remains the backup if needed.
Starter: Jalen Berger
Backup: Jarek Broussard, Elijah Collins
The ground game ground down to a halt at Washington, with both Berger and Broussard struggling to find yards. Berger’s best contributions were made as a pass catcher with three receptions for 38 yards. By any measure, Broussard had an extremely poor game against the Huskies, slipping in the end zone and giving up a safety, dropping a wide open pass for a two-point conversion, and going the wrong way on a third down resulting in stalled drive. Things did not go well. I look for him to be resilient and play with passion the next time he has the ball. Collins got one carry and made the most of it by scoring a one-yard touchdown.
Starters: Jayden Reed, Keon Coleman, Tre Mosley
Backups: Germie Bernard, Montorie Foster, Christian Fitzpatrick
Coleman had a career game versus Washington with two touchdowns and as many two-point conversions. Coleman is showing he can meet the potential as an elite wide receiver. Mosley also had a strong showing against the Huskies, hauling in a score of his own. Reed missed the game due to injury, hopefully he can return against Minnesota to provide the Spartans with a dynamic trio of pass catchers.
Foster and Bernard are the most likely candidates to provide backup snaps for Reed, Coleman and Mosley, while Fitzpatrick could also be in the mix.
Starter: Daniel Barker
Backup: Tyler Hunt, Maliq Carr
After a quiet game against Akron, Barker showed he could be a weapon this past weekend with seven catches for 69 yards against Washington. Barker, along with the wide receiver corps, gives the Spartans a special pass-catching group. Hunt also was targeted several times by Thorne last week, but his four receptions only amounted to just 14 yards. Carr did not register any stats and saw limited action versus the Huskies.
Starter: Jarrett Horst
Backup: Brandon Baldwin
Horst, J.D. Duplain, Nick Samac, Matt Carrick and Spencer Brown all made starts once again last week, however, another showing similar to the last outing could lead to some personnel changes on the offensive line. This group struggled to protect Thorne and didn’t create any holes for the running backs. If struggles continue, look for Geno VanDeMark, Dallas Fincher, Brandon Baldwin and Ethan Boyd to get opportunities.
Starter: J.D. Duplain
Backup: Geno VanDeMark
Starter: Nick Samac
Backup: Dallas Fincher
Starter: Matt Carrick
Backup: Brian Greene
Starter: Spencer Brown
Backup: Ethan Boyd
Starters: Jacob Slade, Simeon Barrow
Backup: Derrick Harmon, Maverick Hansen, Jalen Hunt, Alex VanSumeren, Dashaun Mallory
Last week, Barrow and Harmon got the starting nods. Harmon was in place for Slade, who was a surprise scratch in Seattle. Harmon was one of the bright spots during the loss, flashing promise of a top-tier anchor in the middle. So gaps were found by the Husky runners, but the interior of the line walled up nicely during goal-line stands. Michigan State is quite deep at defensive tackle, however it would be a very beneficial if Slade was to return to face Minnesota’s prolific rushing attack led by Mohamed Ibrahim.
Starters: Jacoby Windmon, Khris Bogle
Backup: Jeff Pietrowski, Bogle, Brandon Wright, Zion Young
The defensive ends were largely neutralized by Washington. Quick passes and defenders stymied by the Husky blockers meant that quarterback Michael Penix Jr. had a clean pocket all game to connect on his throws. The Golden Gophers present a much different offensive style, with their focus being on running the ball. However, there will be points where Minnesota will be in passing downs and a pass rush would be extremely beneficial for the back end defenders.
Starters: Cal Haladay, Ben VanSumeren, Aaron Brule
Backups: Ma’a Gaoteote
Based on Minnesota’s offensive attack and the best grouping of talent for defenders, I believe Michigan State will switch out of the base 4-2-5 defense and will instead replace the nickel with a third linebacker and transition to a 4-3-4 base. If so, Haladay, Ben VanSumeren, and Brule will be your starters with Gaoteote in reserve. The 4-3 alignment puts more bigger-bodied defenders near the line of scrimmage to defend the run.
Starters: Ronald Williams Jr., Charles Brantley
Backups: Ameer Speed, Marqui Lowery, Khary Crump
It’s probable we’ll see new faces in new places in the back-end of the Spartan defense. I’m unsure who Mel Tucker plans on placing in the lineup, as injuries seems to influencing the availability of some players.
Starter: Chester Kimbrough OR Justin White
Backup: Dillon Tatum
As I mentioned before, I believe the Spartans will take the nickel off the field for most of the game, however we will see the 4-2-5 at times and in those situations either Kimbrough of White will be on the field. Kimbrough really struggled against Washington, so perhaps a younger face like Tatum will be given a shot to show what he can do.
Starters: Angelo Grose, Kendell Brooks
Backups: Jaden Mangham, AJ Kirk, Xavier Henderson (likely to miss game)
Brooks continues to provide a ton of pop at the point of impact while Henderson heals from an injury. Unfortunately, Grose appears to be laboring due to a health issue and his ineffectiveness will strain an already challenged safety position. The Spartans really need some health luck, and quickly.
Starter: Jack Stone
Backup: Ben Patton, Stephen Rusnak
Jack Stone didn’t have any field goal attempts against Washington. Unfortunately, none of the kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Rusnak handled duties for onside kicks, which was not a successful endeavor.
Starter: Bryce Baringer
Backup: Ryan Eckley, Evan Morris
Baringer remains one of the best punters in the nation. Hopefully kicks after a safety won’t be a reoccurring matter and there will be no concern on whether Baringer hits the ball out of bounds.
Starter: Jarek Broussard/Germie Bernard
Backup: Cade McDonald/Tyrell Henry
With Reed being injured, we have seen a few different faces as the returner. Even if Reed returns, I would expect Broussard and Bernard to be the main guys for the foreseeable future.
Starter: Hank Pepper
Backup: Michael Donovan
Pepper needs to maintain what he is doing and we shall all be happy.