The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 189 8 MICHIGAN STATE • OCT. 25 BY RYAN TICE Michigan State won a school-record 13 games last fall, claimed the program's eighth Big Ten title and finished third in the final national polls. It marked the Spartans' high- est end-of-season ranking since 1966. The historic campaign was possible thanks to an outstanding defense that finished sec- ond nationally in rushing (86.6 yards al- lowed per game) and total defense (252.2 yards allowed per game), while ranking third in passing (165.6 yards allowed per game) and scoring defense (13.2 points allowed per game). However, the unit lost key pieces at every level, and only five starters return. Redshirt junior defensive end Shilique Calhoun is the reigning Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year. He entered last year with just six career tackles, but burst onto the scene by scoring three defensive touchdowns in the first two games. He finished with 14 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, an interception, 18 quarterback hurries, four fumble recover- ies and two forced fumbles. Fifth-year senior Marcus Rush — who has 126 career tackles, including 27 for loss and 11 sacks — combines with Calhoun for one of the league's best end duos. Senior linebacker Taiwan Jones is the only other returning starter along the front seven. He logged 67 stops and seven tackles for loss on the weakside last year, and he should have even more opportunities in the middle. Fifth-year senior safety Kurtis Drummond was named first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches after he ranked second on the squad with 91 tackles. He also has eight career in- terceptions. Redshirt junior cornerback Trae Waynes, who notched 50 tackles and three picks last season, should step into the lock- down role vacated by first-round NFL Draft pick Darqueze Dennard. Despite the turnover, the Spartans are still capable of reaching heights similar to 2013 — they just might do it a little differently with an offense that could be one of the na- tion's most potent. Redshirt junior Connor Cook, who has a big arm and is mobile, returns as the trigger- man. He was incredibly efficient in 2013, as evidenced by his 22 touchdowns against just six interceptions, and he will have plenty of weapons to work with despite only two returning starters up front. The unit allowed just 17 sacks last year, and they boast three additional linemen who have earned starts. Seven of the eight players who logged at least 100 yards receiving return, including both who posted at least 40 catches. The backfield is even more loaded. Every player who notched more than five carries returns, led by do-it-all back Jeremy Langford, a fifth-year senior who entered last year with nine career carries. He finished with 1,422 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground, and also ranked fourth on the team with 28 receptions. Sixth-year senior Nick Hill has returned punts and kicks, but set a career high with 344 rushing yards in 2013. Sophomores Del- ton Williams and R.J. Shelton, who also plays receiver, each averaged better than 6.3 yards per attempt and combined for 391 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. The Spartans also feature one of the best specialist duos in the land — punter Mike Sadler was named a first-team All-American by last year, while Michael Gei- ger enjoyed a promising debut at kicker with just one missed field goal en route to Fresh- man All-America laurels. The defense has a few stars, but it is un- likely they will be the Big Ten's best for a fourth year in a row. If the offense performs like it should, though, it might not matter — Sparty can contend for a spot in the Col- lege Football Playoff even with a slight step back on defense and tougher schedule that includes a trip to Oregon Sept. 6. Notes Last season's lone loss was a 17-13 decision at Notre Dame, but MSU won every conference game by double-digits … Nearly every position group was ranked among the nation's top 20 by Athlon — the defensive line was No. 3, the defensive backs No. 8, the quarterbacks and run- ning backs both checked in at No. 11, the pass catchers were No. 17 and the offensive line was No. 19, plus the coaching staff was ranked as the eighth-best in the land. ❑ 2014 SCHEDULE Date Opponent 2013 Result Aug. 29 Jacksonville State — Sept. 6 at Oregon — Sept. 20 Eastern Michigan — Sept. 27 Wyoming — Oct. 4 Nebraska W, 41-28 Oct. 11 at Purdue W, 14-0 Oct. 18 at Indiana W, 42-28 Oct. 25 Michigan W, 29-6 Nov. 8 Ohio State W, 34-24 Nov. 15 at Maryland — Nov. 22 Rutgers — Nov. 29 at Penn State — QUICK FACTS All-Time Series: U-M leads 68-33-5 First Meeting: U-M 39, MSU 0 (Oct. 12, 1898, at Ann Arbor) Last Meeting: MSU 29, U-M 6 (Nov. 2, 2013, at East Lansing) Head Coach: Mark Dantonio, 64-29 at MSU (8th year) and 82-46 overall (11th year) Off./Def. Systems: Multiple/Multiple 4-3 2013 in Review: 13-1 overall, 8-0 Big Ten (1st Leg- ends Division) Final 2013 Ranking: No. 3 by Associated Press and USA Today coaches Returning Starters: 14 (7 offense, 5 defense, 2 specialists) Last Bowl Appearance: 2013 (Rose, vs. Stanford, W 24-20) Big Ten Conference Championships (last): 8 (2013) RETURNING LEADERS Passing: Connor Cook (2,755 yards, 22 TD, 6 INT) Rushing: Jeremy Langford (1,422 yards, 18 TD) Receiving: Tony Lippett (613 yards, 2 TD) Tackles: Kurtis Drummond (91) Sacks: Shilique Calhoun (7.5) Interceptions: Kurtis Drummond (4) PLAYERS TO WATCH Offense: Connor Cook, R-Jr., QB — Posted a 13-1 record as first-time starter and was named second-team All-Big Ten by the league's coaches … Threw for 2,755 yards with 22 touchdowns and six interceptions … Tied for the fewest interceptions among Big Ten starting quarterbacks … Was named Offensive MVP of the Big Ten Championship Game and Rose Bowl. Defense: Shilique Calhoun, R-Jr., DE — The 2013 Big Ten De- fensive Lineman of the Year was named a second-team All-Amer- ican by nearly every major outlet and was one of six finalists for the Ted Hendricks Award (nation's top DE) … Tied for the Football Bowl Subdivision lead with three defensive touchdowns … Led the team and ranked second in the Big Ten with 7.5 sacks … Also tallied 18 quarterback hurries, 14 tackles for loss and four fumble recoveries. Fifth-year senior Jeremy Langford entered last season with nine career carries, but fin- ished his breakout campaign with 1,422 yards and 18 touchdowns. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN STATE For Spartans, Repeat Of 2013 Not Out Of The Question 182-193.Opponents.indd 189 6/19/14 1:12 PM

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