As the season rapidly approaches, it’s time to examine three newcomers who could make an impact for each Big Ten team this fall. We'll spotlight one offensive player, one defender and one special teams performer. These can be true freshmen, redshirt freshmen, eligible transfers or players stepping into much larger roles.
Let's get things started with Michigan State.
OFFENSE: Skyler Burkland, T, redshirt freshman, 6-7, 305
As I've written several times in recent months, Michigan State's season could hinge on its new-look offensive line. The Spartans must replace two starting tackles and their starting center. If they can protect Kirk Cousins and create rushing lanes for Edwin Baker and co., there’s no reason why they can't win the Legends division. Burkland entered the spring as the projected starter at right tackle and should be one of several young offensive linemen logging significant playing time this season. He boasts good size and athleticism, a component the coaches see among several potential first-year starters along the line.
DEFENSE: Tony Lippett, CB, redshirt freshman, 6-2, 185
Lippett played both sides of the ball this spring and had coordinators Dan Roushar (offense) and Pat Narduzzi (defense) fighting for his services. The spring standout will see most of his time this fall at cornerback -- Michigan State has good depth at receiver -- as the Spartans’ secondary hopes to continue its playmaking ways from 2010. Johnny Adams has locked down one cornerback spot, but Lippett could work his way into the mix, especially when Michigan State uses its nickel and dime packages.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Mike Sadler, P, redshirt freshman, 6-0, 177
Sadler has big shoes to fill as he replaces Aaron Bates, who played a key role in Michigan State’s two defining plays from 2010: "Little Giants" and "Mousetrap." Bates' arm made him famous, but his right foot wasn’t too shabby, as he led the Big Ten in punting average (45 ypp) and placed 17 attempts inside the 20-yard line. Sadler earned top accolades as a kicker/punter in high school but must prove himself on a bigger stage.