Five Michigan State Players to Watch in Season Opener Against Western Michigan

Nick MordowanecCorrespondent ISeptember 3, 2010

Keith Nichol playing quarterback in 2009. He is now a wide receiver.
Keith Nichol playing quarterback in 2009. He is now a wide receiver.Leon Halip/Getty Images

It’s almost here, folks. The day we have all been waiting for—the first college football Saturday—is less than 24 hours away.

As the Western Michigan Broncos are set to descend upon East Lansing, here's a look at five Spartans who many will have their eyes on come Saturday afternoon.

1. Kirk Cousins, Quarterback

The junior QB is back at the helm, but the difference between this season and last is that Michigan State is going into the season with a sure starter at the quarterback position. Last season was full of controversy as Cousins and Keith Nichol--now a wide receiver on the team--battled one another and split snaps throughout the year.

It's a new season now, and Cousins has all the tools to succeed. After passing for 2,680 yards and 19 touchdowns in a season when he wasn't even the sure starter, the weapons have been placed for Cousins to have an outstanding season--and we should see a big game tomorrow from No. 8.

2. Greg Jones, Linebacker

What can I say about Greg Jones that hasn't been said? He is a preseason All-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, preseason Butkus award winner, and will be chosen (probably pretty high) in next April's NFL Draft.

Jones came back for his senior season to get the sour taste out of his mouth from last year's long campaign. He is not only a leader of the defense, but he is a leader of the entire team. His play dictates what others do, and he may have his biggest collegiate season when it's all said and done.

3. William Gholston, Defensive End

The freshman linebacker-turned-defensive end was the Spartans' big recruit last year. Coaches, players, and fans are very excited about this beast of a kid (or man, I should say). He towers over the competition with his massive frame, but it may take some time for him to get acclimated to the college game.

Coach Mark Dantonio even said Gholston is not first on the depth chart at his position, but this doesn't mean he won't play on Saturday. If Michigan State has a comfortable lead, expect to see the big man on the defensive line and ready to prove his worth.

4. Keith Nichol, Wide Receiver

I mentioned Nichol's back-and-forth with Cousins earlier in the article, but now he has a fresh start at an entirely new position: wide receiver. Nichol will still be involved in the offense, but this time around he will be catching passes and not throwing them.

Nichol gives the Spartans another weapon at the skill positions, an area of the team which I recently said was the best in the Big Ten. It's rumored that Nichol will split time with fellow wideout Mark Dell, but both players should see plenty of time against a less talented Western Michigan team.

5. Larry Caper/Edwin Baker, Running Backs

I included both Larry Caper and Edwin Baker in the list because both are equally as important at the running back position, although the depth chart is quite transparent when alluding to both players. In other words, both should see plenty of playing time this season as their position is one of seven on the team which has no "clear-cut" starter.

Caper is most notorious for his overtime scamper against rival Michigan last October--a run which cemented his place in Spartans lore almost before it even began; Baker is recognized for his great game in the Alamo Bowl. Both players are a year older and have been able to learn together. It will be interesting who the "go-to" back will be come mid-season, or whether there will be a No. 1 tailback altogether.


Prediction: Spartans 38, Broncos 14