Michigan State salutes the seniors and ushers in the underclassman

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Michigan State salutes the seniors and ushers in the underclassman

Brian Lewerke/Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Brian Lewerke/Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Brian Lewerke/Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Brian Lewerke/Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Luke Saccone, Football Beat Reporter

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EAST LANSING – The last game of the regular season for the Michigan State Spartans is a significant one, with a bowl game hanging in the balance. A win, and the Spartans get a bowl game, while a loss results in the end of the 2019 season. 

The game takes a backseat, at least for a short time, to honor a very successful senior class or Spartans. An experienced team, both on offense and defense, Michigan State has been anchored by 22 seniors, many of them playing a large part of the Spartans success in the past four years. 

Offense

On offense, Brian Lewerke has led this team through the ups and downs. His most successful year, in terms of winning and overall statistics was in 2017. He led a potent Michigan State offense to victory against Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. Lewerke finished with 2793 passing yards and 20 touchdowns, and the Spartans finished 10-3.

Other Spartans that had their best season as seniors would include wide receiver Darrell Stewart, and tight end Matt Seybert. 

Stewart, only playing eight games this season, had career highs in receiving touchdowns (four) and receiving yards (694). He was the Big Ten’s leading receiver before he was sidelined due to injury.

Seybert didn’t play much his first two seasons with the Spartans, but broke out this year as a senior. He was a big target for Lewerke. Seybert has caught 22 balls this season for 254 yards and three touchdowns.

Defense

On the other side of the ball, the Michigan State defense is saying goodbye to a special group of seniors. Kenny Willikes, Raequan Williams, Mike Panasiuk, Tyriq Thompson, David Dowell, Josh Butler and Joe Bachie anchored one of the best defenses Michigan State had ever seen in 2018.

It led the nation in run defense, much to the help of the names listed. Several of those players could have went to the draft, but instead came back for their senior year.

While it hasn’t been the top defense that it was last year, this group of players has made a huge impact on the team. Bachie, Willikes and Williams were all captains during the 2019 season. They held Tulsa, in the season-opener, to minus-73 yards rushing. 

Willikes, who started his career as a walk-on at Michigan State, is one of the three finalists for the Burlsworth Trophy, which is given to the best football player in the nation that started as a walk-on. He also was the 2018 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year.

Williams has been Mark Dantonio’s rock on the defensive line. The Maryland game would mark his 41st consecutive game. It would tie for the most starts in a row, by all players, under Dantonio. Shilique Calhoun,also played 41 games in a row, from 2013- 2015.

Youngsters

Amidst an emotional time, and while the Spartans still fight for its season, the team ushers in new faces to take the reigns and learn from the seniors. On the offensive line, there are three freshmen highlighted on the depth chart, including freshman Nick Samac, who will be handling the snaps for Lewerke against Maryland. Two sophomores are ready on the right side of the line, in Matt Carrick and Blake Beuter, both at right guard. 

The Michigan State faithful are already getting accustomed to junior wide receiver Cody White, who had three touchdown catches against Rutgers, and will take over Darrell Stewart’s spot as the top receiving target. Elijah Collins, who has established himself as a top running back for Michigan State as a redshirt freshman, is also a top prospect for Michigan State in the upcoming years. 

There are some younger faces on the perimeter getting some experience as well, with freshmen Tre Mosley and Julian Barnett getting playing time. 

While the defensive side still consists of many seniors, a few names will be getting good time. Noah Harvey, who stepped into a starting role at linebacker is showing some promise in Bachie’s absence. The line is riddled with upperclassmen, the secondary is young, and led by junior cornerback Josiah Scott. This core group of secondary players has had a rough 2019, however the experience could prove helpful in the next few seasons.

Other seniors being recognized:  LS Ryan Armour, OT Cole Chewins, LB Peter Fisk, P Jake Hartbarger, OG Tyler Higby, WR Davis Lewandowski, OL Tommy Liesveld, S Corey Pryor, LB Dante Razzano, RB Noah Sargent, WR Brandon Sowards, OL Bryce Wilker.