Although the loss of Brian Allen is a crucial one, the #5 Michigan State offensive line enters the 2018 season as one of the most experienced units in the Big Ten with four returning starters and a handful of other contributors from last year’s team back this fall.
Michigan State offensive line coach Mark Staten spoke about his offensive line at Michigan State football media day and said after entering 2017 with a young, inexperienced group, he’s seen plenty of growth during the offseason and sees a position group primed for a big year in 2018.
“We’ll have a very athletic line,” he said. “Last year, as young as we were, we had to worry more about where we were going and not necessarily how we were getting there. Now we’re taking the steps through the offseason to pay attention to how we’re getting there, how we’re getting to that linebacker, and how we’re getting to that down lineman. We’ve seen a lot of benefits to that just these last four days.”
After appearing in 51 games and making 38 starts for the Spartans in his four years in East Lansing, Allen was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the fourth round of the NFL Draft.
Among the key returners are left tackle Cole Chewins, right tackle Luke Campbell and guards David Beedle, Kevin Jarvis and Tyler Higby. Matt Allen, the younger brother of Brian Allen and Jack Allen will compete for the starting job at center.
While Michigan State has five players returning who saw significant playing time a year ago, head coach Mark Dantonio told reporters that the Spartans have as many as eight players who are capable of being full-time starters this fall and credited Staten for the work he’s done developing linemen and building that depth over the past couple of years.
“Well coach Staten has done a nice job with that and we’ve played a lot of guys,” he said. “We’ve probably got, you know, probably eight guys that are capable of playing at this level and win with right now and that’s a good problem to have.”
Beedle, a fifth-year senior with 14 career starts, including eight starts a season ago and finished the year without allowing a sack, said that the Spartans obviously have big shoes to fill in replacing Brian Allen but is confident in the team’s depth and the young players coming up in the program.
“I think this group can be very good,” he said. “Obviously losing Brian hurts, but we got a lot of people returning, a lot of guys who have played. We also have young guys who are coming up who are definitely going to contribute as well. It just goes back to having that chemistry in the room and all of us are close. Working together and trying to help each other as much as possible, I think we can be very good.”
Along with filling the void left by Allen at the center position, Michigan State will also look to fill his shoes from a leadership standpoint as the lone senior starter on last year’s team was a captain in 2017 and started in 28 straight games for the Spartans.
Campbell, who made 12 starts at right tackle as a redshirt freshman last fall, said that with Allen moving on to the NFL, it has opened the door for other offensive linemen and members of the offense to take on more of a leadership role moving forward.
“I think the chemistry is built,” he said. “We lost Brian Allen who was our leader last year, it has given us the ability to step up and take charge individually. I think as a unit we will be better because all of the returners that we have have gotten better individually.”
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