- Drew Stanton. 2005 stats: 236-354, 3,077 yards, 22 TDs, 12 INTs. Returning starter.
Finally healthy to start the season last year, Drew Stanton proved himself to be one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. His stats suffered a bit during the annual Spartan collapse down the stretch, but he still finished the year as the 9th-most efficient QB in the nation. His combination of mobility, experience, arm strength, and leadership abilities mark him as my pick for the best QB that the Irish will face next year. He led the Spartan comeback against ND in 2004 and gave the Irish defense fits in 2005. He is a bit injury-prone, but when he's on the field, he's very dangerous. Depth: Brian Hoyer is the returning backup for Stanton and he's really the only one now with the transfer of backup Domenic Natale to Rutgers. Hoyer played in five games last year and even threw for two touchdowns so he's not completely inexperienced, but he's not exactly someone Spartan fans hope to see under center.
BACK - Javon Ringer. 2005 stats: 122
attempts, 873 yards, 5 TDs. Returning starter.
Javon Ringer took off as a freshman last year and led the Spartans in rushing, even though he wasn't even technically the starter. Lightning-quick, Ringer's 6.7 yards per rush average is testament to his ability to get by the first defender, and no opponent on the 2006 Irish schedule is a better threat to break off a long run. At 5'9" he's not the biggest back, and he'll have to prove he can handle the poundings that come with being the featured carrier, but an off-season in the weight room should help in that regard. Depth: The thunder to Ringer's lightning is junior Jehuu Caulcrick who at 245 pounds is one of the biggest backs the Irish will face. He's plenty experienced with over 200 career carries and his 5.4 career yards per carry average is impressive. AJ Jimmerson redshirted last year and will provide a quality third back.
Jerramy Scott. 49 receptions, 722 yards, 4 TDs. Returning starter.
Matt Trannon. 40 receptions, 573 yards, 4 TDs. Returning starter.
Terry Love. 28 receptions, 430 yards, 3 TDs. Returning starter.
The Spartan receiving unit doesn't have any All-American players, but it will be one of the most complete groups that the Irish will face. There is plenty of experience and a good mix of size and speed. Jerramy Scott led the team in receptions last year and has started 22 games in his MSU career. Matt Trannon (left), who co-stars on the Spartan basketball team, is a huge target at 6-6 and also has good speed to evade tacklers. ND fans might recall his 65-yard TD catch and run last year. He'll need to become more consistent as he had 6 games last year where he failed to top 36 yards. Terry Love is a quick receiver who can do damage on shorter routes if too much attention is paid to Scott and Trannon. Depth: Kerry Reed is a JUCO transfer who started slow last year, but came on strong later in the year. He also led the Spartans in TD receptions. Carl Grimes, brother of ND receiver David, is a speedy threat with good hands and Ryan Allison is a 6-3 sophomore who didn't see much action as a freshman, but has a bright future with the Spartans.
Kellen Davis. 15 receptions, 122 yards, 2 TDs. New Starter.
Kellen Davis will move into the starting tight end spot with the departure of last year's starter, Kyle Brown. Utilized as a receiver more than a blocker, Davis will need to fine tune his blocking now that he is the starter. He has enough speed to be dangerous running routes and is a tough player. ND fans might remember him holding onto a Drew Stanton pass and scoring a touchdown last year against the Irish while being knocked unconscious by Chinedum Nduwke. Depth: Dwayne Holmes is clearly a blocking tight end at 6-0, 275 pounds. When he's in, look out for the run.
LT - Mike Gyetvai. (#56 T) Returning starter.
LG - Kyle Cook. (#53 G) Returning starter.
C - John Masters. New starter.
RG - Roland Martin. New starter.
RT - Jesse Miller. New starter.
The left side of the Spartan offensive line will be very tough indeed, while the right side will need to quickly overcome their collective inexperience. Mike Gyetvai started every game at right tackle last year and now slides into the left tackle spot and is expected to be an all-conference caliber player. Next to him, Kyle Cook (right) is the most veteran player on the line with 23 starts under his belt at left guard. Roland Martin was a huge recruit for the Spartans a few years ago and the 6-5, 324 pounder has some hefty expectations to live up to coming into his redshirt sophomore year. Sophomore Jesse Miller only appeared in four games last year in garbage time so he'll be the player with the most to prove. Depth: Tom Kaczmarek started one game last year at left tackle. Most of the other backups haven't seen much time, but are all 300+ pound space eaters.
Brandon Long. 3 tackles, 1 FR. New starter.
David Stanton. 13 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 PBU. New starter.
Justin Kershaw. 4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL. New starter.
WLB - David Herron. (#32 - OLB) 65 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 TFL, 2 PBU, 3 FR. Returning starter.
MLB - Kaleb Thornhill. 63 tackles, 1 sack, 4 TFL, 2 PBU, 1 FR. Returning starter.
Bandit - SirDarean Adams. (#33 - OLB) 60 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 TFL, 3 INT, 2 PBU, 2 FF. Returning starter.
The theme of experienced linebackers continues at
CB - Greg Cooper. 48 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 PBU. Returning starter.
CB - Demond Williams. 29 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PBU. Returning starter.
FS - Otis Wiley. 18 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FR. New stater.
SS - Nehemiah Warrick. JUCO transfer. New starter.
The Spartans should have quality safeties this year, but their cornerbacks will be in question until they can prove otherwise. Technically Greg Cooper is a returning starter, but he was moved from free safety to corner in the spring and will have to get used to the new position in a hurry. He's a strong player, but corner skills are different from safety skills. The other corner, Demond Williams, returns as the other corner for the Spartans but really wasn't all that productive last year. At safety, the big name is transfer and JUCO All-American Nehemiah Warrick (left). With an impressive spring, Warrick is poised for a very strong debut season. Free safety Otis Wiley enters the starting lineup at free safety and the sophomore will need to overcome any inexperience quickly in order to make an impact. He is extremely fast though and has the potential to be a decent ball-hawking free safety Depth: The depth chart took a big hit when experienced backup corner Ross Weaver went down with a wrist injury. He might be back later on in the season, but will miss the ND game. In his place, Jelani Nantambu is the backup corner and probably the most likely nickel back on the roster. Other than him, there isn't much depth with little to no experience.