Michigan State Football: 5 Underrated Players Who Will Make a Splash in 2012
Michigan State has been a team on the rise for a few years now and this year is no different. Mark Dantonio is known for developing 2- and 3-star recruits into solid starters.
There are plenty of guys on the team that contribute even though they weren't thought of highly by other schools. There's no doubt about it, Dantonio can spot talent from a mile away. He doesn't care what they are rated by recruiting websites, he will make them into stars.
It goes without saying, Michigan State has plenty of unsung heroes. Whether it be on the ferocious defense or the unproven offense, MSU has players who are rarely talked about that are going to make a splash in 2012 and make sure the Spartans don't have a letdown season.
Darqueze Dennard, CB
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It's pretty impressive when you can miss four games near the end of the season and still be named honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2011. That's exactly what Darqueze Dennard did last season.
The junior cornerback fought through his injury late in the season to post solid stats in the Outback Bowl against SEC opponent, Georgia. He had two interceptions in the game and one that lead to MSU's first touchdown, returning the ball 38 yards for a score.
Dennard is the lesser talked about cornerback on this Michigan State team and he is still an All-Big Ten performer. He finished the season with 42 tackles and three interceptions in just 10 games of play.
If his play in the bowl game win over Georgia is any indication of how he'll fare this season, it's going to be pretty exciting to watch him make a name for himself. Even though there is a guy named Johnny Adams, a projected top 20 pick next season, at the other corner.
Chris Norman, LB
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Chris Norman was a highly touted linebacker prospect coming out of high school, and rightfully so. He was rated among the nation's top prep outside linebackers as an incoming freshman in 2009.
Norman hasn't quite lived up to all the expectations, but he is still a force at linebacker. He has been criticized the most out of all the linebackers and the senior is looking to leave a footprint on the program before his departure.
He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten linebacker last season and was fourth on the team with 76 tackles, an impressive feat seeing that he missed three games.
The linebacker is one of the most underrated players in the Big Ten and could possibly wind up getting drafted after this season. He earned respect from his teammates by earning the team's Jim Adams award on defense, an award for the team's unsung hero.
Look for Norman to continuing growing and getting better this season. He is sure to improve on his already impressive numbers.
Marcus Rush, DE
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Rush is, by far, one of the most underrated players in the Big Ten. He came out of high school as an average recruit from Ohio who was barely talked about, and then Dantonio got a hold of him.
He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten defensive end and was also named Big Ten Freshman Defensive MVP by ESPN.com. There is no doubt that Rush is a rising star in the conference and even the country.
He started all 14 games last season at defensive end and was second among MSU defensive linemen with 58 tackles and his four sacks were tops among Big Ten freshmen.
Rush will have an even better sophomore season, and when he does, it will be just enough to launch Michigan State into the Rose Bowl. Rush is the next big thing for the Spartans' defense.
Dion Sims, TE
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Dion Sims is one of those guys that has been in trouble a lot. Although right now his off-field issues aren't important, it's still somewhat of a concern.
It seems as if Sims grew up last year, though, staying out of trouble and performing with quality. Yes, he only has 23 career catches and just 12 catches for 99 yards last season, but the big target at tight end is going to be a major target for young quarterback Andrew Maxwell.
He has yet to live up to the potential bestowed upon him by almost every scout coming out of high school. He is a huge target with decent speed and great hands. Sims will be relied upon to make clutch receptions this year when Andrew Maxwell needs a sure-handed receiver.
If Sims didn't run into off-field issues, he would be a sure star for the Spartans, but instead he has seen limited playing time since joining the team. He will have a great season and the junior will prove he belongs in the starting lineup. He'll be catching many touchdown passes this season for the Spartans.
Bennie Fowler, WR
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This junior wide receiver reminds me a lot of former MSU receiver, BJ Cunningham. He is a good-sized receiver with great hands.
Although he has been injury-ridden for the past two seasons, Fowler will most likely be the No. 1 receiver along with Tennessee-transfer DeAnthony Arnett.
Fowler missed all but two games last season as a sophomore, finishing with two catches for 20 yards. His freshman season he caught 14 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown, showing his potential early. Fowler's injury looks to be healing progressively and he should be in for a breakout season.
The Spartans lost every starting receiver last season from Cunningham to Nichol and are replacing them with all new starters at the position. Fowler will be a star at receiver for the Spartans and not many defenses know about him so that will work in his favor.
Look for an All-Big Ten season out of him and a Rose Bowl out of the Spartans.