Our series looking at a player or a group of players from each Big Ten team who needs a home run type of summer before preseason camp opens is winding down. Who needs to hit it out of the park in preparation for the season?
For previous entries, click here.
In the batter's box: Michigan State
Who needs to step it up: Andrew Maxwell and the receivers
Michigan State has just about every ingredient necessary to be a championship team. The Spartans have an elite defense that is deep, talented and experienced. The offensive line could be the best Mark Dantonio has fielded in East Lansing, and the running game should be strong behind breakout candidate Le'Veon Bell. The major question mark hanging over this team is the passing game. Quarterback Maxwell takes over for three-year starter Kirk Cousins and has some big cleats to fill. This is Maxwell's fourth year in the program, and the redshirt junior has a similar makeup to Cousins when it comes to leadership. Yet Maxwell lacks game experience and missed valuable time this spring with a knee injury. He needs to get completely healthy and build as much chemistry as possible with a very young group of receivers. Bennie Fowler and Tony Lippett qualify as the veterans there, but both were out for extended periods this spring. Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett won his appeal for immediate eligibility and must get a handle on the new (for him) offensive system. Andre Sims Jr. and Keith Mumphery made strides this spring, and need to continue to develop this summer. And the incoming freshmen -- some of whom could be asked to play right away -- have to acclimate quickly to the college game and the college life. Michigan State doesn't have to be one of the best passing teams in the country in order to win the Big Ten. But if Maxwell and his receivers can build a competent passing game, then the Spartans will be awfully tough to beat in 2012.