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2023 Team Preview: Defensive Line

Who will be the front four?

Michigan State v Rutgers Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Returning Starters: Simeon Barrow, Kris Bogle

Returning Reserves: Maverick Hansen, Derrick Harmon, Brandon Wright, Alex VanSumeren, Avery Dunn, Zion Young

New Additions: Tunmise Adeleye*, Dre Butler*, Jarrett Jackson*, Jalen Sami*, Bai Jobe, Andrew Depaepe, Jalen Thompson

* = transfer

The defensive line for Michigan State has the potential to be a strength of this team in 2023, and that is even with the departure to the NFL of arguably the team’s best defensive player in 2022, Jacob Slade. In fact, MSU said goodbye to half of its DT depth in the offseason. That said, they return some solid names in Barrow, Hansen, and Harmon. As well, they are bringing in a trio of transfers from big time programs with Sami (Colorado), Butler (Auburn then Liberty), and Jackson (Louisville then Florida State).

Barrow will certainly resume his role as a starter in the middle. His 4 sacks last year were 2nd on the team, behind Jacoby Windmon, and his 40 total tackles were 2nd among all d-linemen. The question is who will help him stuff the center of the opponents’ attack. I think the other two returning players, Harmon and Hansen, should have a leg up on the competition from the transfers and will be the prime candidates to win the other starting DT job. Their familiarity and success in the program could give them an advantage, but there is a new DL coach so that could potentially level the playing field some. However, none of the transfers comes in boasting statistics in their previous programs that were as good as the numbers the incumbents put up here.

The defensive end positions are even more up in the air. Kris Bogle missed most of last season, going down with an injury in the first game that he got to be the starter in. If he can return to form and earn one of the starting spots again, that would be a massive win for this unit. Aside from Bogle, DE seems likely to have at least one newcomer earn a starting role. Adeleye comes to East Lansing as one of the highest ranked transfers and he is being joined by three members of the ESPN300 from the 2023 freshman class - Jobe, Depaepe, and Thompson. None of the other returning depth pieces - Dunn, Young, and Wright - have stood out in terms of statistical production. Dunn did have three sacks last season, though.

A season ago, MSU was giving up the third most rushing yards per game among Big Ten teams and were a middle-of-the-conference team in recording sacks. This year, there feels like there is more overall depth to the DL room. We need to see the cream rise to the top and for four players to emerge as clear-cut B1G level starters. We could see a lot of defensive rotation in the first two games (against CMU and Richmond) while the coaches figure out who that is going to be.

The one thing that could throw this projection for a loop would be if Windmon moves back to the line after being moved to linebacker midseason in 2022. But with a lot of new faces in that position group plus the uncertainty around Darius Snow’s injury, I feel it is a safe bet to say Windmon stays at linebacker. I am not sure if anyone will be as good as Slade was last year, but I think that the overall talent and depth should be better than 2022.

Projected Starters: Kris Bogle, Maverick Hansen, Simeon Barrow, Tunmise Adeleye