Michigan State's front seven was a key factor to its success in 2011, and barring a litany of injuries, it will be in 2012 as well.
One position that's going to be nearly impossible to improve on in 2012, however, is defensive tackle, and that's because All-American Jerel Worthy has surprised nobody by declaring for the NFL draft.
Worthy has the size—6'2", 308 at the combine—and strength to stand up most NFL offensive linemen at the line, and he's got exemplary footwork and hand-fighting techniques to disengage blockers one-on-one right at the snap.
A high-level RB can probably leave him grasping if he beats a run block, but in the NFL, running backs are supposed to be able to do that to defensive tackles. Still, he seems better suited to disrupting plays than ending them himself in the NFL.
The real knock on Worthy—as in what's likely to keep him out of the first round—is a supposed lack of effort and intensity on a play-by-play basis. The dreaded label of "dogging it" hasn't been applied to him yet, but there was always a sense while Worthy was at MSU that he should be getting at least a little more out of his talents than 18.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks over the last two years combined.
Sure, Worthy was drawing attention from double teams from time to time, but not as much as some other, more productive DTs nationwide.
The bottom line is this: Worthy has the physical skill set to succeed in the NFL. He can make a lot of teams look foolish for passing on him in the first round. Occasionally, he has made plays at Michigan State where you see them and think "That guy's going to be playing for a long time."
But rarely, if ever, could you come away from a Saturday thinking "Boy, Worthy dominated that game from start to finish." If you're a GM, you want more from a first-round pick at DT, and that's why Worthy's probably going in the second instead.