With the Spartans’ first game against Jacksonville State looming less than three weeks away, Impact Sports takes a preseason look at the 2014 offensive line unit.
In case you missed it, here are the breakdowns of the safety, cornerback, linebacker and defensive line units.
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Key Departure: Blake Treadwell
Treadwell, son of former offensive coordinator Don Treadwell, started all 14 games at left guard for the Spartans last season. He led the team with 70.5 knockdowns, helping pave the way for running back Jeremy Langford, who led the Big Ten in touchdowns with 18.
Treadwell was also named the Spartan Offensive Lineman of the Week eight different times last season. His efforts during his senior season led him to second-team All-Big Ten honors by both the coaches and media.
After graduating last spring, Treadwell briefly tried out with the Oakland Raiders despite not being drafted. After not making the cut, Treadwell announced he will be a part of East Lansing High School’s coaching staff, where he is an alumni.
Michigan State also lost seniors Fou Fonoti and Dan France, who signed NFL contracts with the San Francisco 49ers and the Cincinnati Bengals respectively.
Key Returner: Jack Allen
Michigan State’s center returns for his junior season as a third-year starter. Allen was third on the team with 68 knockdowns and was named second-team All-Big Ten by the media.
The six-foot-two, 300-pound Illinois native made the preseason watch-list for both the Rimington Trophy (nation’s top center) and the Outland Trophy (nation’s top interior offensive lineman).
Allen will be a leader for the Spartan’s deep offensive line unit, as his 25 career starts is the most of the unit.
Other Contributors: Jack Conklin, Travis Jackson, Donavon Clark, Connor Kruse, Kodi Kieler and James Bodanis
Michigan State shifted as many as eight offensive lineman in games last season, resulting in a lot of experience for the returning players from the unit.
Conklin started 13 games last season as a redshirt freshman and did not allow a single sack all year. The Spartans will be depending on him to shoulder a heavy load yet again in 2014.
Jackson, a senior known for starting the famous “Yes!” chant, has 17 career starts at center but is currently first on the depth chart at left guard for next season.
Clark, a junior, started four games last season at left tackle but is currently listed as the starting right tackle for the upcoming season.
Kieler, who primarily played on special teams last season, is listed as Clark’s backup. He is a very versatile player who can play guard or center as well.
Kruse is a fifth-year senior who is currently listed as the starting right guard.
Bodanis is a name to look out for this season. He is a transfer from the University of Toronto and had to sit out the 2013 season. He made the switch from defensive line to offensive line during practices leading up to the Rose Bowl last season and has been impressing offensive line coach Mark Staten since.
The Future: Brian Allen
Allen, the younger brother of starting center, Jack Allen, is a true freshman looking to get into the offensive line rotation this season. He is currently listed as the backup center to his older brother.
Preseason Grade: B+
Despite losing three starters from last season, the unit looks to be a strong one for Michigan State. Allen, Conklin and Jackson are the most experienced out of the group and are expected to be starters. Competition will be stiff for the two remaining starting spots, but Clark, Kruse, Bodanis and Kieler look up to the challenge thus far.
Brian Allen and junior college transfer Miguel Machado could potentially get themselves in the mix for playing time during fall camp. Redshirt sophomores Benny McGowan and Zach Higgins also could fight for some playing time this season, giving the Spartans tremendous depth at this position.
That depth, mixed with a solid dose of experience and talent from the starters, should make for a strong front line for a quickly improving Spartan offense.
Dan Tyler is the host of Spartan Red Zone for Impact Sports.
Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports