No. 116: Blake Treadwell, #64, LG, Michigan State
2011 Stats: 3 starts, center (injured in week 3)
Any question of Treadwell's value to the Michigan State rushing game was made readily apparent when he went down with a knee injury in Week 3 against Notre Dame. Michigan State's rushing game never recovered, finishing 11th in the Big Ten even with talent like Le'Veon Bell and Edwin Baker in the backfield.
Treadwell is one of the most versatile linemen in the Big Ten, and it's only for an embarrassment of riches on the line this year that Treadwell is being pigeon-holed in at left guard. He's even holding off Jeff Allen, whom Mark Dantonio has referred to as a "seventh starter," at left guard. Yes, seven starters. That's how set Michigan State is on the line.
Treadwell wasn't an All-Big Ten caliber center before he went down with his injury, and the fact that he was unable to win the center job back from Travis Jackson (who's serviceable, to be sure) is a little unsettling. Still, if Treadwell is already back on the field the spring after a season-ending injury, the knee must be holding up just fine.
As for on the field, Treadwell's not a road-grader, and Michigan State doesn't really push the point of attack up the middle like you'd see from a top-flight line. Treadwell's sort of "sticky" and can take his man out of the play without knocking him back off the line, but the brutishness isn't there.
Treadwell should continue to hold off Allen, and whatever lingering knee issues he might be getting over in the spring should be long gone by Week 1. Michigan State's rushing attack needs to be better in 2012; with Kirk Cousins and his WR friends gone, Le'Veon Bell will be the unquestioned workhorse of the offense, and that will require a strong push up front.
It's reasonable to expect that such an improvement will come from Treadwell and the line. Look for one of the top four or five rushing games in the conference in terms of production, and look for the line to also be instrumental in keeping new starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell's jersey clean as he grows into the role in 2012.