Center Jack Allen, wide receiver Aaron Burbridge, defensive end Shilique Calhoun, offensive tackle Jack Conklin, quarterback Connor Cook, defensive tackle Joel Heath and defensive lineman Lawrence Thomas will attempt to improve their stock for the upcoming NFL Draft.
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Seven Michigan State players – center Jack Allen, wide receiver Aaron Burbridge, defensive end Shilique Calhoun, offensive tackle Jack Conklin, quarterback Connor Cook, defensive tackle Joel Heath and defensive lineman Lawrence Thomas – have accepted invitations to participate in the 2016 National Football League Scouting Combine, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 23-Monday, Feb. 29 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The seven Spartans attending the NFL Scouting Combine ties a school record and is the most under MSU head coach Mark Dantonio.
Over the last six years, Michigan State has sent 31 participants to the NFL Scouting Combine and 40 total during Dantonio’s tenure. Michigan State also sent seven players to the 2000 NFL Scouting Combine (wide receiver Plaxico Burress, quarterback Bill Burke, safety Aric Morris, linebacker Julian Peterson, defensive end Robaire Smith, wide receiver Gari Scott and offensive tackle Greg Robinson-Randall).
The seven players also rank second most among Big Ten teams and tied for ninth among all schools in the country. In addition, Michigan State is one of only four schools to have three defensive linemen invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, along with Alabama, Clemson and Penn State.
Six of the seven Spartans are members of the winningest senior class in school history, as MSU collected a 43-11 record from 2012-15. Conklin, a fourth-year junior who is forgoing his senior season, was a three-year starter at offensive tackle from 2013-15. The group helped Michigan State to a 36-5 record the past three seasons, including two Big Ten Championships (2013, 2015), two bowl victories (2014 Rose, 2015 Cotton), a berth in the 2015 College Football Playoff, and three consecutive Top-10 finishes in the national polls (No. 3 in 2013, No. 5 in 2014, No. 6 in 2015).
The Spartans sent six players to the NFL Scouting Combine last year (safety Kurtis Drummond, linebacker Taiwan Jones, running back Jeremy Langford, wide receiver Tony Lippett, wide receiver Keith Mumphery and cornerback Trae Waynes) and also in 2012 (running back Edwin Baker, quarterback Kirk Cousins, wide receiver B.J. Cunningham, wide receiver Keshawn Martin, safety Trenton Robinson and defensive tackle Jerel Worthy).
The NFL Scouting Combine (National Invitational Camp) is organized and operated by National Football Scouting, Inc. NFL Network and NFL.com will provide more than 45 hours of live coverage from Lucas Oil Stadium, beginning Wednesday, Feb. 24. In addition, NFL Network’s live coverage of the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine can be accessed on mobile phones, exclusively through NFL Mobile from Verizon. More than 600 NFL personnel, including head coaches, general managers, scouts and medical staff representing all 32 teams, will attend the Scouting Combine and evaluate more than 300 of the nation’s top college players eligible for the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft through on-field drills, physical testing, psychological exams, as well as formal and informal interviews.
Live coverage of on-field workouts begins Friday, Feb. 26 with the offensive linemen, running backs and special teamers, and continues with the quarterbacks, tight ends and wide receivers on Saturday, Feb. 27, linebackers and defensive linemen on Sunday, Feb. 28, and defensive backs on Monday, Feb. 29. Coverage of workouts begins each day at 9 a.m. ET.
NFL SCOUTING COMBINE: MSU PARTICIPANTS (40) UNDER COACH DANTONIO – BY YEAR
2008 (4): RB Jehuu Caulcrick, TE Kellen Davis, WR Devin Thomas, S Nehemiah Warrick
2009 (3): QB Brian Hoyer, RB Javon Ringer, S Otis Wiley
2010 (2): PK Brett Swenson, WR Blair White
2011 (4): WR Mark Dell, TE Charlie Gantt, LB Greg Jones, CB Chris L. Rucker
2012 (6): RB Edwin Baker, QB Kirk Cousins, WR B.J. Cunningham, WR Keshawn Martin, S Trenton Robinson, DT Jerel Worthy
2013 (4): CB Johnny Adams, RB Le’Veon Bell, DE William Gholston, TE Dion Sims
2014 (4): LB Max Bullough, CB Darqueze Dennard, WR Bennie Fowler, S Isaiah Lewis
2015 (6): S Kurtis Drummond, LB Taiwan Jones, RB Jeremy Langford, WR Tony Lippett, WR Keith Mumphery, CB Trae Waynes
2016 (7): C Jack Allen, WR Aaron Burbridge, DE Shilique Calhoun, OT Jack Conklin, QB Connor Cook, DT Joel Heath, DL Lawrence Thomas
NFL SCOUTING COMBINE: MSU PARTICIPANTS (40) UNDER COACH DANTONIO – BY POSITION
QB (3): Brian Hoyer (2009), Kirk Cousins (2012), Connor Cook (2016)
RB (5): Jehuu Caulcrick (2008), Javon Ringer (2009), Edwin Baker (2012), Le’Veon Bell (2013), Jeremy Langford (2015)
WR (9): Devin Thomas (2008), Blair White (2010), Mark Dell (2011), B.J. Cunningham (2012), Keshawn Martin (2012), Bennie Fowler (2014), Tony Lippett (2015), Keith Mumphery (2015), Aaron Burbridge (2016)
OL (2): C Jack Allen (2016), OT Jack Conklin (2016)
TE (3): Kellen Davis (2008), Charlie Gantt (2011), Dion Sims (2013)
DE (5): DT Jerel Worthy (2012), DE William Gholston (2013), DE Shilique Calhoun (2016), DT Joel Heath (2016), DL Lawrence Thomas (2016)
LB (3): Greg Jones (2011), Max Bullough (2014), Taiwan Jones (2015)
DB (9): S Nehemiah Warrick (2008), S Otis Wiley (2009), CB Chris L. Rucker (2011), S Trenton Robinson (2012), CB Johnny Adams (2013), CB Darqueze Dennard (2014), S Isaiah Lewis (2014), S Kurtis Drummond (2015), CB Trae Waynes (2015)
PK (1): Brett Swenson (2010)
NFL COMBINE SCOUTING COMBINE: MOST 2016 PARTICIPANTS BY SCHOOL
1. Ohio State (14)
2. Notre Dame (10)
3T. Alabama (9)
3T. UCLA (9)
5T. Auburn (8)
5T. Clemson (8)
5T. Florida (8)
5T. Georgia (8)
9T. Michigan State (7)
9T. Oklahoma (7)
9T. USC (7)
CLOSER LOOK AT EACH SPARTAN INVITED TO 2016 NFL SCOUTING COMBINE
C Jack Allen – Hinsdale, Ill. (Hinsdale Central) – 6-2 – 296
One of the most decorated offensive linemen in school history, Allen is just the third Spartan offensive lineman to earn first-team All-America honors twice (Dave Behrman, 1961-62; Tony Mandarich, 1987-88) and only the 15th player overall in school history. A year after picking up USA TODAY First Team All-America accolades as a junior in 2014, Allen made the first team as a senior in 2015, according to The Associated Press, CBSSports.com and SI.com. He also was named a finalist for Rimington Trophy (nation’s top center) for the second consecutive season.
Allen, who also earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2015 for the second year in a row, became only the fifth Spartan on the offensive line to garner first-team all-conference accolades twice (Ellison Kelly, 1957-58; Behrman, 1961-62; Joe DeLamielleure, 1971-72, Mandarich, 1987-88) and just the second center (Behrman).
A tough, tenacious and versatile lineman, Allen started 12 games at center for the Spartans in 2015 while helping lead the team to a Big Ten Championship and a berth in the College Football Playoff. The co-captain started the first six games at center, but missed the Michigan and Indiana games with a lower leg injury he suffered in the Rutgers game in Week 6; he returned to the starting lineup in Week 9 vs. Nebraska. He also played at left tackle vs. Purdue and Rutgers due to injuries along the offensive line.
Allen showed off his versatility in the Big Ten Championship Game against the nation’s sixth-ranked rushing defense in the victory over fourth-ranked Iowa, helping the Spartans accumulate 174 yards on the ground. On MSU’s game-winning, 22-play touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, he played multiple positions, including center, tight end and fullback.
The 6-foot-2, 297-pound Allen graded out at an All-America level in the win over Penn State on Senior Day in his last appearance at Spartan Stadium, leading the team with 10 knockdowns and also rushing for a 9-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. He collected 77 knockdowns in 10 games during the regular season.
The Hinsdale, Illinois, native led the Spartans with nine knockdowns at Ohio State, as the Spartans rushed for 203 yards and ended the second-ranked Buckeyes’ 23-game winning streak. He was named the Spartan Offensive Player of the Week against both Maryland and Central Michigan.
Allen played in 48 career games, including 47 starts (42 at center, five at left guard), the second-most starts by a Spartan offensive lineman in school history (Joel Foreman: 49 from 2008-11). He registered more than 285 career knockdowns and was a semifinalist for the National Football Foundation 2015 William V. Campbell Trophy (nation’s top scholar-athlete). One of 22 Spartans in program history to earn Academic All-Big Ten honors four times, Allen earned his bachelor’s degree in hospitality business in December 2015.
Allen participated in the 2016 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, and drew rave reviews from NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, who has Allen rated the No. 5 center in the upcoming draft class. In a Senior Bowl preview by SI.com, Allen was ranked the No. 1 center attending the event, and ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has Allen listed as his No. 4 center.
“Allen is a very quick, tough kid,” Mayock said in an interview with NFL.com. “It’s a really good center class. Centers don’t get valued as highly as they should. I don’t know what round he’s going in, I just know he’s going to make somebody’s team, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he ends up starting somewhere.”
Allen is the first center in the Dantonio era to be invited to the NFL Scouting Combine.
WR Aaron Burbridge – Farmington Hills, Mich. (Harrison) – 6-1 – 208
Burbridge was named the 2015 Richter-Howard Big Ten Receiver of the Year, the second Spartan in a row to win the award (Lippett, 2014), after leading the conference in receptions (85; 6.1 per game) and receiving yards (1,258; 89.9 ypg.). The 85 receptions set an MSU single-season record and the 1,258 receiving yards were the fifth most in an MSU single-season. Those figures also ranked among the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision leaders in receiving yards (16th with 1,258), receiving yards per game (19th with 89.9 ypg.) and receptions (29th at 6.1 pg.).
A first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and media and an honorable mention All-American by SI.com, Burbridge became just the third Spartan to lead the Big Ten in receiving yards (Charles Rogers, 2002; Lippett, 2014) and only the second to lead the conference in receptions (Kirk Gibson, 1976 and 1978). Burbridge also led the team and ranked ninth in the Big Ten in all-purpose yards (1,302; 93.0 ypg.). In addition to receptions and receiving yards, Burbridge ranked among MSU’s single-season leaders in 100-yard receiving games (tied for second with 7) and TD catches (tied for 12th with 7). His seven 100-yard receiving games, which included a stretch of four straight (Rutgers, Michigan, Indiana, Nebraska), were one shy of the MSU single-season record set by Cunningham in 2011, and the seven receiving TDs ranked first on the team and tied for fourth most in the Big Ten.
Burbridge led MSU in receiving in 12 of 14 games and had 21 receptions of 20-plus yards. Sixty-one of his 85 catches resulted in either a touchdown or first down (72 percent).
The 6-1, 210-pound Burbridge had five receptions for 39 yards in the College Football Playoff Semifinal vs. No. 2 Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. In the Big Ten Championship Game vs. No. 4 Iowa, he established a Michigan State single-season record for receptions with his 80th catch of the year on a third-and-8 play in the fourth quarter that kept MSU’s eventual game-winning touchdown drive alive; the 16-yard grab was his fifth of the game and he finished with a team-high five receptions for 61 yards.
Burbridge led the team with six catches for 75 yards on Senior Day against Penn State, including a 29-yard touchdown reception from Connor Cook in the third quarter in which he eluded several tacklers on his way into the end zone.
Burbridge tied his career high with 10 catches and established a career high for receiving yards with 164 at Nebraska on Nov. 7; he also had a 33-yard TD catch in the third quarter. It marked Burbridge’s fourth consecutive 100-yard receiving game and his seventh of the season. His 164 receiving yards were the most ever by a Spartan wide receiver against the Huskers.
In MSU’s 27-23 win over No. 12 Michigan in Ann Arbor on Oct. 17, Burbridge hauled in nine catches for 132 yards while being matched up against All-Big Ten first-team cornerback Jourdan Lewis. Burbridge recorded a career-high 10 receptions and had 156 receiving yards in the win at Rutgers.
The Farmington Hills, Michigan, native was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after setting a career high with three touchdown catches in the win over Air Force in Week 3; he had eight receptions overall for 156 yards against the Falcons. He scored on TD grabs of 28, 32 and 21 yards from Cook. Burbridge’s first TD grab was an acrobatic reception in the corner of the end zone that was named one of the top plays of the week by several national media outlets.
Burbridge’s three TD receptions tied MSU’s single-game record (last player: Cunningham vs. Wisconsin, 2011 Big Ten Championship Game), and it also marked Burbridge’s third-straight 100-yard receiving game. He topped the 100-yard receiving mark in the first half alone, with five catches for 112 yards and two TDs.
A four-year letterwinner, Burbridge had 165 catches for 2,174 yards (13.2 avg.) and 10 touchdowns in 51 career games, including 23 starts. He finished his career ranked among MSU’s all-time leaders in receptions (second with 165), 100-yard receiving games (fifth with eight), receiving yards (seventh with 2,174) and TD catches (tied for 20th with 10).
Burbridge had two receptions for 43 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown catch as time expired, in the Senior Bowl. He was ranked the No. 5 wide receiver at the Senior Bowl by SI.com. Mayock noted to NFL.com in Mobile that Burbridge “had a huge breakout year. You can see here at the Senior Bowl that he’s a competitor; very quick, catches the tough pass…I think he’s got toughness and could play special teams.”
Burbridge is the ninth wide receiver under Dantonio to participate in the Senior Bowl. The Spartans have sent a wide receiver to the NFL Scouting Combine three consecutive years and seven out of the last nine.
DE Shilique Calhoun – Middletown, N.J. (Middletown North) – 6-5 – 250
Calhoun was named first-team All-Big Ten for the third year in a row in 2015, becoming the first Spartan defensive lineman in school history to earn first-team honors three times.
The Middletown, New Jersey, native, who was named the 2013 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year and also earned first-team All-Big Ten accolades in 2013 and 2014, led the Spartans as a senior by recording career highs in sacks (10.5 for 74 yards), tackles for loss (15 for 82 yards) and quarterback hurries (18). His career-high 10.5 sacks (0.75 pg.) ranked third most in the Big Ten and 22nd in the FBS; they also ranked seventh most in an MSU single season.
In addition to becoming the first Spartan defensive lineman to garner first-team All-Big Ten honors three times, Calhoun was just the eighth Spartan in school history to accomplish the feat and the first since linebacker Greg Jones (2008-10).
A three-time second-team All-American, Calhoun was a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award and a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award (college defensive player of the year), Lombardi Award (college lineman of the year) and Lott IMPACT Trophy.
He matched his season high with six tackles in MSU’s 16-13 victory over No. 4 Iowa in the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game, with three resulting in losses (17 yards) including two sacks (16 yards). Calhoun also was credited with one forced fumble and a QB hurry. The Spartans limited the Hawkeyes to 13 first downs, 52 rushing yards (24 carries) and 268 total yards.
The 6-foot-5, 251-pound Calhoun was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for the second time in 2015 and third time of his career following his performance in the 27-23 win at No. 12 Michigan on Oct. 17. Calhoun, who wore No. 43 in tribute to injured linebacker Ed Davis, recorded five tackles, including a career-best 3.5 for losses (11 yards) against the Wolverines. His tackles for losses included two sacks (6 yards). The Spartan defense forced Michigan to go three-and-out on six possessions and limited the Wolverines to a season low in total yards (230).
He also was named the Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week after recording a season-high six tackles in No. 2 Michigan State’s 30-10 victory Central Michigan on Sept. 26, with three resulting in losses (24 yards) including 2.5 sacks (24 yards). Calhoun also was credited with four quarterback hurries, one pass break-up and a blocked kick against CMU. He finished the game with a team-high 37 production points, the most by a Spartan defensive player in 2015.
A four-year letterwinner and three-year starter at defensive end (2013-15), Calhoun was one of just four players in the Dantonio era to be elected a team captain twice (Jones, Cousins, Max Bullough). Calhoun finished his career ranked among MSU’s all-time leaders in tackles for loss yardage (first with 268), sacks (second with 27), sack yardage (second with 211), tackles for loss (fourth with 44), fumble recoveries (tied for 10th with five) and forced fumbles (tied for 15th with four). Thirty-four percent of Calhoun’s career tackles went for losses (44 TFLs/131 tackles), and he also had two blocked kicks in his career. In addition, Calhoun is one of three Spartans in school history to score three defensive touchdowns (T.J. Turner; RJ Williamson).
The dynamic playmaker appeared in 54 career games, including a team-high 41 consecutive starts to close his career (42 starts overall). He finished his career tied for the most games played ever by a Spartan (54). Calhoun earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in December 2015.
Calhoun is ranked one of the top defensive ends (No. 7) in the 2016 NFL Draft by Kiper.
OT Jack Conklin – Plainwell, Mich. (Plainwell) – 6-6 – 325
One of the top offensive tackle prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft, Conklin decided to forgo his senior season on Jan. 6.
The 6-foot-6, 325-pound Conklin earned All-America honors in 2015 from Sporting News (first team), USA TODAY (first team), Associated Press (second team), FWAA (second team), Walter Camp Football Foundation (second team), Phil Steele (third team) and SI.com (honorable mention).
A first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and media, Conklin was named Spartan Offensive Lineman of the Week a team-best four times (Western Michigan, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio State) during the regular season. Although he missed two games (Purdue, Rutgers) with a leg injury, Conklin still collected 65.5 knockdowns and graded out a winner in eight of his 10 regular-season games.
The Plainwell, Michigan, native began his junior season by being named the Spartan Offensive Lineman of the Week against Western Michigan, and followed that effort with a team-best 9.5 knockdowns in the win over No. 7 Oregon.
After missing two games, Conklin registered a Big Ten Championship level grade for his performance in the win at No. 12 Michigan, which included 7.5 knockdowns, to earn Spartan Offensive Lineman of the Week laurels. He picked up the award for the second week in a row with eight knockdowns vs. Indiana.
Following MSU’s 17-14 win at No. 2 Ohio State on Nov. 21, Conklin again was named the Spartan Offensive Lineman of the Week as Michigan State rushed for 203 yards against the nation’s third-ranked defense and ended the defending National Champion Buckeyes’ 23-game winning streak. In the regular-season finale at Penn State, Conklin compiled 8.5 knockdowns and the Spartans held the Nittany Lions without a sack for the first time all season.
With a healthy offensive line, the Spartans averaged 188.3 rushing yards per game against their last three Big Ten opponents, including wins over No. 2 Ohio State, Penn State and No. 4 Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Conklin saw action in 39 career games, including 38 starts (35 at left tackle, three at right tackle). A three-year starter, Conklin helped the Spartans to two Big Ten Championships (2013, 2015) and two bowl wins (2014 Rose, 2015) during his time in the starting lineup, in addition to a berth in the College Football Playoff in 2015.
Conklin, who is the first offensive tackle in the Dantonio era to be invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, is a projected first-round pick by ESPN’S Todd McShay and Kiper, and is ranked the No. 14 overall prospect according to Scouts, Inc. Conklin is also rated the No. 3 offensive tackle in the draft by Kiper, McShay and Mayock.
QB Connor Cook – Hinckley, Ohio (Walsh Jesuit) – 6-4 – 220
The winningest quarterback in school history, Cook leaves Michigan State as the program’s all-time leader in touchdown passes (71), passing yards (9,194) and total offense (9,403 yards). He compiled a 34-5 (.872) record as the starter, including a 23-2 mark (.920) against Big Ten opponents, while leading Michigan State to three bowl wins (2012 Buffalo Wild Wings, 2014 Rose, 2015 Cotton), two Big Ten Championships (2013, 2015) and a berth in the 2015 College Football Playoff. The 34 wins are fourth most in Big Ten history and tied for 25th in NCAA FBS history by a starting quarterback.
Cook was named recipient of the 2015 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, presented annually since 1987 to the nation’s top college quarterback. Candidates for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award must be college seniors or fourth-year juniors on schedule to graduate with their class. In addition to the accomplishments on the field, candidates are judged on their character, citizenship, scholarship achievement and leadership qualities.
During his senior season, Cook became the first Spartan quarterback to win the Greise-Brees Big Ten Quarterback of the Year Award since its inception in 2011, and was also the first Spartan QB be named first-team All-Big Ten since Steve Juday in 1965 and only the fifth ever in school history (Earl Morrall, 1955; James Ninowski, 1957; Dean Look, 1959; Juday, 1965). Cook was a second-team selection in 2013 and 2014.
Completing 56 percent of his passes (229-of-408) for 3,131 yards, 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2015, Cook finished among MSU’s single-season leaders in touchdowns (tied for second with 24, tying a career high), pass attempts (fourth with career-high 408), passing yards (fourth with 3,131), pass completions (fifth with career-high 229) and passing yards per game (fifth with 240.8 per game). He ranked among the Big Ten leaders in touchdown passes (second with 24), passing (third with 240.8 ypg.), total offense (third with 245.2 ypg.) and passing efficiency (fifth with 136.6 rating).
Cook finished tied for ninth in the Heisman Trophy voting, becoming the first Spartan to place in the Top 10 since Javon Ringer in 2008 (10th); he also became just the fourth Spartan quarterback to finish in the Top 10 and the first since 1965 (Juday, 1965, 6th; Look, 1959, 6th; Morrall, 1955, 4th). Cook was a finalist for both the Manning Award and Chicago Tribune Silver Football Award (Big Ten’s best player/one of three), and was a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award (quarterback of the year) and Maxwell Award (college player of the year).
During the middle of the season, Cook established a school record by throwing for more than 300 yards in four consecutive games (367 vs. Rutgers; 328 vs. Michigan; career-high 398 vs. Indiana; 335 vs. Nebraska); the four 300-yard passing games were tied for second most in an MSU single season (record: Smoker with six in 2003). In addition, Cook had eight 200-yard passing games, tied for fifth most in an MSU single-season, and in Big Ten games, he averaged 270.3 passing yards per game.
Cook surpassed Cousins for the most wins by a Spartan starting QB in school history in the Purdue game in Week 5 (Cousins had a 27-12 record from 2009-11); Cook also tied a school record with Cousins with 39 career starts.
Cook became the first player in Big Ten history to win the Grange-Griffin Big Ten Championship Game Most Valuable Player Award twice (also won in 2013 vs. Ohio State) as he helped lead the Spartans past No. 4 Iowa, 16-13, to claim MSU’s second Big Ten title in three years. Cook completed 16-of-32 passes for 191 yards against the Hawkeyes, including a key 16-yard strike to Burbridge on third-and-8 during the game-winning touchdown drive. On that same drive, which lasted 22 plays and went 82 yards in 9:04, he also rushed 2 yards for a first down on fourth-and-2 from the Iowa 5-yard line with 1:59 remaining that set up LJ Scott’s 1-yard game-winning TD run with 27 seconds left. It marked Cook’s sixth fourth-quarter comeback for the Spartans (2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl vs. TCU; 2013 vs. Ohio State in Big Ten Championship Game; 2014 Rose Bowl vs. Stanford; 2015 Cotton Bowl vs. Baylor; 2015 vs. Michigan, 2015 vs. Iowa in Big Ten Championship Game). Cook’s five career wins over AP Top 10 teams is second in school history (Juday with six from 1963-65).
Cook posted his seventh 200-yard passing game of the season and 25th of his career, hitting 19-of-26 throws for 248 yards and three touchdowns against Penn State on Senior Day in his final appearance at Spartan Stadium. With 243 total yards vs. PSU, Cook set MSU’s career record for total offense (previous record – 9,004 yards by Cousins, 2008-11). He became the school’s all-time leader in total offense with his 16-yard completion to R.J. Shelton early in the fourth quarter.
Cook had his school-record streak of 36 consecutive starts snapped as he sat out the Ohio State game on Nov. 21 (sprained shoulder).
Cook tied a career high with four TD passes at Nebraska to set a Michigan State career record with 68, passing Cousins. Cook completed 23-of-37 passes for 335 yards and one interception along with his four TDs, and set a school record with his fourth straight 300-yard passing game (367 vs. Rutgers; 328 vs. Michigan; 398 vs. Indiana; 335 vs. Nebraska). Cook’s 335 passing yards were the most ever by a Spartan QB against Nebraska.
After setting a school record with 416 yards of total offense and throwing for a career-high 398 yards in Michigan State’s 52-26 win over Indiana in Week 8, Cook was named the Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career. Cook also set career highs for pass completions (30) and pass attempts (52) against the Hoosiers and tied his career best with four TD passes. He produced some of the top single-game passing totals in school history: completions (tied for sixth with 30), pass attempts (sixth with 52), passing yards (second with 398) and TD passes (tied for second with 4). The 398 passing yards were just two shy of MSU’s single-game record (Burke, 400, vs. Michigan in 1999).
Cook became just the second Spartan starting quarterback to defeat Michigan three consecutive times (Cousins, 2009-11) in MSU’s 27-23 triumph at Michigan Stadium in Week 7. He threw his 60th career touchdown pass with a 30-yard pass to Macgarrett Kings Jr. in the third quarter and completed 18-of-39 passes overall for 328 yards.
Cook threw for 367 yards – the fifth-highest total in school history – and two touchdowns in the win at Rutgers in Week 6. His showing against the Scarlet Knights was named one of the “Great 8” performances of the week by the Davey O’Brien Award. With the score tied at 24 with 4:16 to play, Cook engineered a 10-play, 76-yard game-winning touchdown drive to lead MSU to a 31-24 win. His 29-yard completion on third-and-9 from the MSU 25 to Shelton kept the drive alive and led to Scott’s 3-yard TD run with 43 seconds remaining in the game.
In MSU’s 35-21 victory over Air Force on Sept. 19, Cook matched his career high with four TD passes and was 15-of-23 passing for 247 yards. He connected three times for scores with Burbridge, who tied MSU’s single-game touchdown reception record against the Falcons and was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week.
Cook completed 20-of-32 throws for 192 yards and two touchdowns in the 31-28 win over No. 7 Oregon on Sept. 12 in Spartan Stadium.
The Hinckley, Ohio, native finished his career ranked among MSU’s all-time leaders in touchdown passes (first with 71), passing yards (first with 9,194), total offense (first with 9,403 yards), pass attempts (first with 1,170), 300-yard passing games (tied for first with 10), 200-yard passing games (tied for first with 26), passing yards per game (second at 213.8 ypg.), pass completions (third with 673), passing efficiency (fourth with 139.8 rating) and pass completion percentage (10th at .575). In 43 career games, he completed 58 percent of his passes (673-of-1170) for 9,194 yards, 71 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. His 71 touchdowns rank seventh in Big Ten history. Cook also tied a school record, shared with Cousins and Drew Stanton, by throwing for a touchdown pass in 16 straight games (streak started vs. Illinois on Oct. 26, 2013 and was snapped at Maryland on Nov. 15, 2014).
Cook, who started a school-record 36 consecutive games at quarterback (streak began on Sept. 7, 2013 vs. South Florida and ended on Nov. 21, 2015 vs. Ohio State), had two winning streaks which rank among the longest by a Spartan starting quarterback in school history (12 from Nov. 15, 2014 to Oct. 24, 2015. is second longest; 11 from Oct. 5, 2013, to Aug. 29, 2014, is third longest; record: Al Dorow, 15 in 1950-51).
Cook and Dan Enos are the only two Spartan quarterbacks to win two bowl games as the starting quarterback (Cook: 2014 Rose, 2015 Cotton; Enos: 1989 Aloha, 1990 Sun). Cook also led the Spartans on a game-winning drive in the 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against TCU. He closed his career with several Spartan bowl records, including most passing yards (903), passing attempts (128), pass completions (69), passing touchdowns (5) and total offense (875 yards) in four games, including three starts (2-1 record).
A three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, Cook earned his bachelor’s degree in media and information in December 2015.
Cook is ranked one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft by Kiper (No. 4) and Mayock (No. 4).
DT Joel Heath – Cincinnati, Ohio (Mount Healthy) – 6-6 – 293
Heath recorded career highs in tackles (31) and tackles for loss (5.5 for 26 yards) and had two sacks (11 yards) in 12 starts for the Spartans at defensive tackle as a senior in 2015. The 6-foot-6, 293-pound Heath earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors from the media.
Although Heath missed the Central Michigan (Week 4) and Maryland (Week 10) games due to an injury, he ranked 11th on the team with 52 production points during the regular season.
In the Big Ten Championship Game against No. 4 Iowa, Heath had two tackles and was credited with a half tackle for loss as the Spartans won their second Big Ten title in three years.
The Cincinnati, Ohio, native was named the Spartan Defensive Player of the Week against the Hoosiers after posting four stops, including an 8-yard sack, against the Hoosiers. He recorded four tackles, including a 3-yard loss, and broke up a pass in the win at No. 12 Michigan.
Heath compiled 11 production points against the Boilermakers in Week 5 with two tackles and a fumble recovery. In the victory over Air Force in Week 3, he posted five stops, including a 1-yard loss.
He tallied a career-high six tackles, including a 10-yard loss, and also forced a fumble in the win over seventh-ranked Oregon on Sept. 12; he totaled 13 production points against the Ducks. In the season opener at Western Michigan, Heath recorded three tackles, including a 3-yard sack.
A three-year letterwinner who played in 39 career games, including 24 starts, Heath was a two-year starter on the defensive line (2014-15) and collected 60 career tackles, including 10.5 for losses and 4.5 sacks. He earned his bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies in social science in December 2015.
DL Lawrence Thomas – Detroit, Mich. (Renaissance) – 6-3 – 281
The 6-3, 281-pound Thomas had his best season for the Spartans as a fifth-year senior in 2015, recording career highs in tackles (38), tackles for loss (5.0 for 31 yards) and pass break-ups (six) while matching his career best with three sacks (27 yards). An honorable mention All-Big Ten selection by the coaches, Thomas started all 14 games (13 at defensive end, one at defensive tackle) and ranked seventh on the team with 118 production points during the regular season.
The Detroit, Michigan, product led the Spartan defensive line with 14 production points in the win at No. 2 Ohio State and helped limit the Buckeyes to 132 yards of total offense, their lowest output in 16 years. He had three tackles, including a half tackle for loss (1 yard), against OSU.
Thomas tallied a career-high seven tackles and broke up a pass in the win at No. 12 Michigan. He served as the fourth game captain against the Wolverines and was named the Spartan Defensive Attack Force Player of the Week for his performance in the victory.
He led the Spartan defensive line with 10 production points at Rutgers while collecting a 6-yard sack against the Scarlet Knights, and had four tackles, including a half tackle for loss (1 yard), vs. Air Force.
In the win over No. 7 Oregon, Thomas was one of the key reasons why the Ducks were held to 123 yards rushing, their fewest single-game total since 2013. He led the Spartan defensive line with 19 production points against Oregon and recorded six tackles, including a half sack on a key third down with just over a minute remaining. He was also credited with an assisted tackle on a fourth-and-goal stop in the second quarter as MSU kept UO’s Royce Freeman out of the end zone.
Thomas was a four-year letterwinner and started two seasons on the defensive line for the Spartans (2014-15). He played in 47 career games and closed his career with 27 consecutive starts; he had 30 starts overall (three at fullback in 2012). He began his career at linebacker and moved to defensive end during his red-shirt season in 2011, then played fullback in 2012 before returning to the defensive line in 2013. Thomas recorded 72 career tackles, including 9.5 for losses (50 yards) and 6.0 sacks (43 yards). He earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology in December 2015.
Thomas was one of three Spartans who participated in the Senior Bowl. Ranked the No. 11 defensive lineman at the Senior Bowl by SI.com, Thomas contributed two tackles, including one for a 1-yard loss, for the North.
Michigan State will host its annual Pro Day on Wednesday, March 16. The 2016 NFL Draft will be conducted April 28-30 in Chicago.