After entering 2022 on the strength of an 11-2 season and a Peach Bowl victory, last year didn’t go as Michigan State football expected. The on-field product was below average, and after a hot recruiting start last summer, the Spartans finished with a smaller-than-expected signing class for the recruiting cycle of 22.
In a new year, here are the resolutions Mel Tucker and the Spartans must commit to ahead of the 2023 season.
1.) Restore their running game
Michigan State was inconsistent in running play last season. Transfer running back Jalen Berger showed promise early on but struggled midway through the season. Running back Jarek Broussard, the 2020 Pac-12 Player of the Year, was another transfer that fell short of expectations in 2022. Berger will return next season, while Broussard declared for the draft of the NFL.
The Spartans felt the future was bright for the running back but plans have changed. New Caney (Texas) running back Kedrick Reescano was committed to Michigan State for nine months, but 247Sports’ No. 167 player in the country opted out in late October and signed with Ole Miss in December .
As a result, the Spartans turned to ‘plan B’ and picked up three running backs – two from the transfer gate and one from high school. Connecticut transfer Nathan Carter will have the biggest impact next year as he tries to give MSU what Broussard couldn’t. Small but fast, Carter will partner well with Berger in the backfield.
The other two additions are South Florida transfer Jaren Mangham, brother of current MSU safety Jaden Mangham, and three-star West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade High School star Jaelon Barbarin, who is an absolute speedster. Sophomore running backs coach Efferm Reed will have a lot to do next season.
2.) Sign a five-star recruit
Tucker and the staff have done well on the recruiting track for three years, but something that remains on their to-do list is signing a five-star recruit. Michigan State has been a runner-up for many, but has yet to reach a deal. Defensive tackle Malik McDowell in 2014 was the last five-star to sign with the Spartans.
However, the Class of 2024 could end the drought, as Michigan State is already engaged in a few five-star battles. Buford (Ga.) High school safety KJ Bolden hails from the same high school as Spartan safety Malik Spencer, providing some familiarity for MSU. The No. 4 player in the nation and the best safety in this class, the Spartans aren’t the favorites to land Bolden, but have the resources and connections to stay in contention.
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A more likely five-star option is Bradenton (Florida) IMG Academy defensive tackle David Stone. Michigan State already has several crystal ball predictions in its favor for the nation’s No. 9 player. Stone has already visited East Lansing twice and is destined for further trips north in the future.
Chances are Michigan State will land Stone — more likely than any other five-star the Spartans have recruited since Tucker arrived in East Lansing. Stone has been very candid about the fact that he loves MSU, but it will be up to the coaching staff to seal the deal.
3.) Go back to a bowl game
Although it seems obvious, almost everyone took a bowling game for granted heading into the 2022 season. Many thought this team would regress from an 11-2 record in 2021, but few predicted Michigan State would fall to 5 -7 in 2022. Looking ahead, the Spartans seem to have an even tougher schedule in 2023.
Each of the seven programs Michigan State lost last season is back on the program in 2023. Additionally, the Spartans have a road test against Iowa, which was one of the toughest places to win. for opponents on the road in recent years. Although the Spartans have the chance to redeem each of their losses last season, they will have their hands full.
The biggest key to MSU’s improvement this season is going to be offense. Incumbent starting quarterback Payton Thorne may not have a guaranteed job in the fall, with redshirt junior Noah Kim and redshirt rookie Katin Hauser vying to take his place.
Additionally, there will be some new faces along the offensive line, with two new incoming players expected to compete for starting jobs. The running backs room is still being sorted, while the wide receivers room has mostly unproven options behind returning starters Keon Coleman and Tre Mosley.
With all of these underlying issues and positional contests, the Spartans have their hands full in the spring and summer. In Year 4, offensive coordinator Jay Johnson must figure out how to score more than the 24.4 points per game that Michigan State averaged last season.
There is plenty of room for improvement in all areas for the Spartans in 2023. On the pitch, they have a chance to reestablish their identity and find redemption. Off the field, recruiting efforts will yield better results if Michigan State wins games. We will have a better idea of the progress of this program when things resume in the spring.