We won't see the defending Big Ten and Rose Bowl Game champions on the field for their spring game until April 26, but you can bet there will be a lot of eyes on the Spartans of Michigan State once they are. The biggest question facing MSU this spring is, quite simply, "what's next?"
Finishing the 2013 season as Big Ten champions was something only a few dared suggest back in August. Michigan State, however, not only blew through the Big Ten without a conference loss, but the Spartans knocked off mighty Ohio State in the Big Ten title game and eventually toppled Stanford in the Rose Bowl Game to finish No. 2 in the final B/R Top 25 of the season.
So what now? What can MSU do for an encore? How can Sparty possibly top 2013?
First, we need to look to offensive consistency. Quarterback Connor Cook grew up literally before our eyes last season. Despite a horrendously slow start, Cook quickly—and somewhat quietly from a national and even Big Ten media standpoint—became one of the most efficient on-field game-managers. Will Cook be able to continue his growth?
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, how well will Michigan State be able to reload on defense? Gone is Max Bullough, Denicos Allen and Thorpe Award-winner Darqueze Dennard. In fact, MSU returns just five defensive starters.
Mark Dantonio and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi (who turned down the head coaching position at UConn to remain DC at MSU) have been great in the past at reloading the defense with some eye-popping talent. Will they do it again for 2014?
If we see signs of another dominating defense on April 26, don't be surprised if more than a few people put Michigan State near the top of their lists for the East Division race.
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