EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 02: Head coach, Mark Dantonio leads his Michigan State Spartans onto the field before an NCAA football game against the Youngstown State Penguins at Spartan Stadium on September 2, 2011 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
After a short hiatus, in which your humble correspondent moved across the great Garden State (go with it) and digesting the Freeh Report, we’re back to looking at how the other teams in the B1G made out with their 2012 recruiting class. This week, we venture to East Lansing, Michigan and check out how Sparty made out this past winter.
Mark Dantonio continued establishing Michigan State among the elite football teams in the B1G. The Legends Division Champion Spartans had impressive wins against Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin during the regular season, but lost a blowout to Nebraska and in the inaugural B1G championship game. Led by Kirk Cousins (now a Washington Redskin), Sparty closed out its season with an overtime victory over Mark Richt and Georgia in the Outback Bowl.
Demetrious Cox-DB-6’1’’, 192 lbs., Jeanette, PA. Let’s face it, this one hurts a lot, especially given Penn State’s deficiencies in the defensive backfield. Be that as it may, the reason it hurts so much is that Cox is a flat-out stud (do with that what you will). In fact, Cox may end his career as the most impactful player in this entire B1G draft class. A two way player in high school, Cox was a very good option quarterback. This background enables Cox to read the quarterback and use his size, speed, athleticism and vision to make life a living nightmare for quarterbacks and receivers throughout the B1G. In addition, as Michigan State lost every receiver who caught a pass last year, don’t be surprised if Cox takes some snaps at receiver and in the return game. If he spends some time on the return teams and on offense, there is a good chance Cox will spend a December Saturday Evening at the Downtown Athletic Club. The only positive for other teams in the B1G is that it is equally likely that Cox may opt to cash in after his junior year and head to the NFL.
Aaron Burbridge-WR-6’1’’, 174 lbs., Farmington Hills, MI. Burbridge is a prototypical wide receiver in every sense of the phrase. Blessed with 4.4 speed, good height and hands, Burbridge runs crisp routes and was able to make plays while playing with a somewhat inaccurate high school quarterback. In high school Burbridge successfully ran the end zone corner fade route and even made difficult catches over the middle. However, Burbridge will need to add about 20 pounds of muscle over his college career in order to make those tough catches over the middle against the better B1G secondaries. Burbridge will also have to improve his skills as a blocker, although he definitely has the size to be effective in that role as well.
Jamal Lyles-DE-6’3’’, 215 lbs., Southfield, MI. Lyles is a tremendous athlete, having played defensive end, linebacker, tight end and quarterback in high school. Lyles can rush the passer, play the run exceptionally well and can drop back in coverage. While Lyles is a tremendous football player, it is unlikely that Lyles will end up as a classic, every down defensive end as his body type probably translates better as a linebacker. Still, with his skills for attacking the ball and as a tackler, Dantonio will have no problem figuring out a way to use Lyles right off the bat, most likely as a situational pass rusher.
Michigan State is in a state of flux as they enter the 2012 season opener against Boise State. Many of the starters from the outstanding 2011 Spartan defense return. However, Michigan State lost a good quarterback and several good receivers. Offensively, the Spartans will have to rely on the run game, led by Le’Von Bell (948 rushing yards in 2011). The 2012 recruiting class reflects the dearth of offensive playmakers, as Michigan State had seven skill position (WR, RB & TE) commit in 2012. In addition, it is entirely conceivable that Cox will see some time as a wideout. Overall, Michigan State’s quality recruiting class in 2012 (17 3-star and above recruits out of 18), should pay dividends in the future.
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