Michigan State spring wrap

Michigan State

2010 overall record: 11-2

2010 conference record: 7-1 (T-1st)

Returning starters

Offense: 6; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

QB Kirk Cousins, RB Edwin Baker, WR B.J. Cunningham, G Joel Foreman, DT Jerel Worthy, CB Johnny Adams, S Trenton Robinson, LB Chris Norman

Key losses

WR Mark Dell, TE Charlie Gantt, LT D.J. Young, C John Stipek, LB Greg Jones, LB Eric Gordon, CB Chris L. Rucker, P Aaron Bates

2010 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Edwin Baker* (1,201 yards)

Passing: Kirk Cousins* (2,825 yards)

Receiving: Mark Dell (788 yards)

Tackles: Greg Jones (106)

Sacks: Jerel Worthy* (4)

Interceptions: Trenton Robinson* (4)

Spring answers

1. D-line solidifies: Although Michigan State loses a lot at linebacker, the coaches haven't altered their expectations for the defense, in large part because their confidence in the front four. The defensive line should be a strength as several players made strides this spring. Gifted sophomore William Gholston could be on the verge of a breakout season as he settles in at end, where the Spartans also will use Tyler Hoover and Denzel Drone on the edges. Tackle Anthony Rashad White had a good spring and forms a nice interior tandem with All-Big Ten candidate Jerel Worthy.

2. Two-way Tony: Redshirt freshman Tony Lippett was the star of spring ball in East Lansing. He practiced at both cornerback and receiver and made plays in both spots. He capped a strong session with a 57-yard reception and a pass breakup in the spring game. Michigan State's coordinators are fighting over Lippett, and he could see time on both sides of the ball this season.

3. Adams emerges: When Michigan State's seniors held their spring game draft last week, Johnny Adams was the first name called. Adams, a junior cornerback, turned in a very strong spring and drew a lot of praise from the staff. Michigan State needs a No. 1 corner as Chris L. Rucker departs for the NFL, and Adams looks ready to answer the bell. "As a safety, you can just be like, 'Leave that to Johnny,'" safety Trenton Robinson told The Grand Rapids Press. "You just look over and you know Johnny’s got it on lockdown."

Fall questions

1. Offensive line: The Spartans' success could hinge on a revamped line that must replace three starters from the 2010 team. While the coaches see more athleticism up front, which stems in part from several players making the switch from defense, there's no substitute for experience and continuity. The line must continue to jell this summer, as players like Dan France, Travis Jackson and Blake Treadwell move into big roles.

2. Linebacker rotation: Greg Jones and Eric Gordon made a ton of plays for Michigan State, and their production will be tough to replace. Returning starter Chris Norman is back, but Michigan State likely will have sophomores Max Bullough, Tyquan Hammock and Denicos Allen assume bigger roles. Jones and Gordon always were around the football, and the Spartans need the same qualities in their next generation of linebackers.

3. Punter: Go ahead and laugh if you'd like, but no punter in America played a bigger role in his team's success than Aaron Bates did last fall. Bates not only averaged 45 yards per punt but completed passes on trick plays that led to wins against both Notre Dame and Northwestern. Redshirt freshman Mike Sadler is set to succeed Bates at punter, although he'll have to hold off senior Kyle Selden.