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Spartans Travel to No. 13 Michigan in Battle for Paul Bunyan Trophy

Date: Saturday, Oct. 31
Kickoff:12:05 p.m. EDT
Location:Ann Arbor, Mich.
Stadium:Michigan Stadium (107,601)
Surface:FieldTurf
Tickets:No public sale

TV/Web/Mobile: FOX/FOX Sports app/FOXSportsGo.com
Announcers: Gus Johnson (play-by-play), Joel Klatt (analyst), Jenny Taft (sideline)

Radio: TCF Bank Spartan Media Network | Affiliate Listings
Play-by-Play: George Blaha
Analyst: Jason Strayhorn
Broadcast Host: Steve Courtney
Website/Mobile: msuspartans.com/MSU Spartans app/Tune In radio {LISTEN LIVE}
Flagship Stations: Lansing: WMMQ (94.9 FM)/WJIM (1240 AM); Detroit: WJR (760 AM)
Affiliates: 28 affiliates listed at msuspartans.com
Satellite: Ch. 382 (XM), Ch. 972 (SiriusXM.com)
Pre-game Show: Begins at 10:30 a.m.

All-Time Series: UM leads, 71-36-5
Series in Ann Arbor: UM leads, 50-22-3
Big Ten Games: UM leads, 38-27-2
Last Meeting: Michigan 44, MSU 10 (2019)
Current Series Streak: 2 by UM (2018-)

COACHES:
MSU Head Coach: Mel Tucker
MSU Record: 0-1 (first season)
Overall Record: 5-8 (second season)
Record vs. Michigan: 0-0

Michigan Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh
Michigan Record: 48-18 (sixth season)
Overall Record: 106-45 (13th season)
Record vs. MSU: 3-2

FIRST-AND-10 –
• Michigan State will look for its ninth win in the last 13 meetings against Michigan as the Spartans take on the No. 13/14 Wolverines Saturday, Oct. 31 in Ann Arbor. Kickoff is set for 12:05 p.m. in Michigan Stadium. The game will be televised nationally on FOX, with Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt and Jenny Taft on the call. The Spartans (0-1) fell at home last Saturday in the season opener to Rutgers, 38-27, while the Wolverines beat then No. 21/21 Minnesota, 49-24, in Minneapolis.

• Michigan State has won four of the last six meetings over Michigan in Ann Arbor, including two of the last three matchups. Although the Spartans fell to No. 15 Michigan last year in Ann Arbor, MSU defeated the No. 7 Wolverines in 2017, 14-10, and in 2015 the Spartans beat No. 12 Michigan, 27-23, as Jalen Watts-Jackson scooped up a fumbled snap on a punt attempt and ran it back 38 yards for a TD as time expired. The unforgettable touchdown was named the No. 1 play of the 2015 season at the ESPN College Football Awards Show in Atlanta on Dec. 10.

• Saturday’s game marks the 113th meeting between Michigan State and Michigan. The Wolverines lead the all-time series, 71-36-5, including a 50-22-3 record in Ann Arbor; however, since 1950, Michigan holds just an eight-game edge, 38-30-2. Since 1953, the winner of the Michigan State-Michigan game has been presented the Paul Bunyan Trophy. The four-foot wooden statue was donated by then-Governor G. Mennen Williams to mark Michigan State’s acceptance into the Big Ten. Since 1953, Michigan leads the series 38-27-2. The trophy depicts the legendary giant lumberjack astride an axe with feet planted on a map of the state with flags representing the schools.

• A new era of Spartan football begins in 2020 as Mel Tucker starts his head coaching tenure in East Lansing. Tucker, a 23-year coaching veteran with championship experience, was named Michigan State University’s 25th head football coach on Feb. 12 following Mark Dantonio’s retirement on Feb. 4.

• Tucker’s resume, which began as a graduate assistant at Michigan State under Nick Saban, has an impressive track record of success. The journey that has led him back to East Lansing includes a head coaching position at Colorado (2019), five seasons as a defensive coach in the Southeastern Conference (2000; 2015-18), 10 seasons in the NFL (2005-14), and four seasons at Ohio State (2001-04). He was a defensive coordinator in the NFL for seven seasons and 11 seasons overall in his coaching career.

• In 143 games as a full-time coach in the FBS, Tucker’s teams have collected a 106-37 (.741) record, including 10 postseason bowl games (2000 Peach, 2002 Outback, 2003 Fiesta/BCS National Championship, 2004 Fiesta, 2004 Alamo, 2015 Cotton/CFP Semifinal, 2016 CFP/National Championship, 2016 Liberty, 2018 Rose/CFP Semifinal, 2018 CFP/National Championship), three conference championships, three national championship games and two national championships (2002 with Ohio State, 2015 with Alabama). He coached 160 games in the National Football League (64 with Cleveland, 64 with Jacksonville, 32 with Chicago).

• Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan State is playing a shortened nine-game conference only schedule in 2020, and Oct. 24 marked the latest season and home opener in school history. Michigan State opened preseason camp on Aug. 7 and held four practices before the Big Ten season was postponed on Aug. 11. On Sept. 16, the Big Ten announced the season would restart and the first weekend of games would be on Oct. 23-24. The Spartans returned to the practice field on Sept. 21 and practiced for the first time in full pads on Sept. 30 in preparation for the season opener. Although the annual MSU-Michigan game is on Oct. 31, it marks the first time since 1960 the two rivals will be meeting in just the second game of the season.

• This marks the first time Michigan State will play at Michigan in consecutive seasons since 1967 and 1968.  With the updated 2020 conference schedule, six division games had the location changed, including two for MSU (Michigan State at Michigan; Indiana at Michigan State). Given the unique circumstances that went into this year’s scheduling process, flexibility in the schedule was prioritized. The rotation of these games in future seasons will be reset based on this year’s location.

• The Spartans welcome back 20 players with starting experience on offense in 2020, including redshirt sophomore running back Elijah Collins, who earned third-team All-Big Ten honors last season after leading the Spartans and ranking fourth in the Big Ten with 988 rushing yards (76.0 ypg). Collins is the leading returning rusher in the Big Ten in 2020. MSU is returning 10 players with starting experience on the offensive line, led by multi-year starters Matt Allen, Luke Campbell and Kevin Jarvis. Senior Jordan Reid, a two-year starting right tackle, elected to opt out of the 2020 season.

• Although the Spartans are replacing seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, the Spartans bring back leading tackler and senior linebacker Antjuan Simmons, who racked up 90 stops in his first season as a starter in 2019. Senior defensive end Jacub Panasiuk recorded career highs in sacks (5) and tackles for loss (11) last year and will anchor the defensive line following the departure of All-American Kenny Willekes.

STAT LEADERS –
Michigan State:
Rushing – Fr. Jordon Simmons (14 carries for 43 yards, 3.1 avg., 0 TDs)
Passing – R-Jr. Rocky Lombardi (31-of-43, .721, 319 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs)
Receiving – R-So. Jayden Reed (11 catches for 128 yards, 11.6 avg., 2 TDs)
Tackles – Sr. Antjuan Simmons (11 tackles, 4 solos, 7 assists, 3.0 TFLs, 1 FR)

Michigan:
Rushing – Jr. Hassan Haskins (6 carries for 82 yards, 13.7 avg., 2 TDs)
Passing – Jr. Joe Milton (15-of-22, .682, 225 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs)
Receiving – Jr. Ronnie Bell (4 catches for 74 yards, 18.5 avg., 0 TDs)
Tackles – Sr. Josh Ross (9 tackles, 5 solos, 4 assists, 1 INT)

A QUICK GLANCE AT NO. 13/14 MICHIGAN (1-0, 1-0 B1G)
• The Wolverines opened the season with a 49-24 win at then No. 21/21 Minnesota Saturday night, as junior quarterback Joe Milton made the first start of his career, going 15-of-22 passing for 225 yards with one TD and was sacked once, along with rushing for 52 yards on eight attempts and one rushing score . . . the Wolverine defense recorded five sacks, while posting five passes defended with one interception and four pass break-ups, adding one fumble recovery.

• After Minnesota scored first, Michigan opened a 21-10 advantage late in the opening quarter and the Wolverines extended their lead to 35-17 at halftime . . . the Golden Gophers scored midway through the third quarter to pull within 35-24, but Michigan pulled away with a TD later in the third stanza and another TD early in the fourth quarter for the final scoring.

• Michigan posted 481 yards of total offense, with 256 on the ground and 225 through the air, while yielding 326 yards of total offense to Minnesota, with 197 yards passing and 129 yards rushing.

• Milton completed a pass to nine different receivers, with four snaring multiple receptions, led by junior wide receiver Ronnie Bell’s four catches for 74 yards, as seven of the nine different receivers were either freshmen or sophomores . . . seven different players had a rushing attempt, led by junior running back Hassan Haskins with six carries for 82 yards and two TDs, while sophomore running back Zach Charbonnet had four rushes for 70 yards, with all 70 yards coming on a 70-yard TD in the first quarter for UM’s first score of the game, and senior running back Chris Evans added another rushing TD, a 5-yard scamper early in the fourth quarter to complete the scoring.
• The Wolverine defense was led by senior linebacker Josh Ross with nine tackles and one interception, while junior defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson added eight stops . . . senior defensive lineman Kwity Paye had three tackles for loss with two sacks, while senior defensive lineman Donovan Jeter had a 15-yard fumble recovery for a TD.

MSU/MICHIGAN SERIES NOTES –
• Saturday’s game marks the 113th meeting between Michigan State and Michigan. The Wolverines lead the all-time series, 71-36-5, including a 50-22-3 record in Ann Arbor; however, since 1950, Michigan holds just an eight-game edge, 38-30-2.

• Michigan State has won four of the last six meetings over Michigan in Ann Arbor, including two of the last three matchups. Although the Spartans fell to No. 15 Michigan last year in Ann Arbor, MSU defeated the No. 7 Wolverines in 2017, 14-10, and in 2015 the Spartans beat No. 12 Michigan, 27-23, as Jalen Watts-Jackson scooped up a fumbled snap on a punt attempt and ran it back 38 yards for a TD as time expired. The unforgettable touchdown was named the No. 1 play of the 2015 season at the ESPN College Football Awards Show in Atlanta on Dec. 10.

BATTLE FOR THE PAUL BUNYAN TROPHY –
• Since 1953, the winner of the Michigan State-Michigan game has been presented the Paul Bunyan Trophy. The four-foot wooden statue was donated by then-Governor G. Mennen Williams to mark Michigan State’s acceptance into the Big Ten. Since 1953, Michigan leads the series 38-27-2. The trophy depicts the legendary giant lumberjack astride an axe with feet planted on a map of the state with flags representing the schools.

BATTLE FOR IN-STATE BRAGGING RIGHTS –
• Michigan State’s 2020 roster features 49 players from the state of Michigan.

SPARTANS RANK SECOND IN ALL-TIME VICTORIES vs. MICHIGAN –
• Michigan State ranks second among opponents in all-time victories over Michigan. Only Ohio State (52) has posted more wins over the Wolverines than the Spartans (36).

SPARTANS RANK SECOND IN ALL-TIME VICTORIES AT MICHIGAN STADIUM –
• Michigan State ranks second among opponents in all-time victories over Michigan at Michigan Stadium. Only Ohio State (22) has posted more wins over the Wolverines than the Spartans (20) at Michigan Stadium (opened in 1927). In addition, only Ohio State (24) has recorded more wins over Michigan in Ann Arbor than the Spartans (22).

LONG HISTORY OF BIG WINS OVER MICHIGAN –
• Michigan State has defeated Michigan 20 times when the Wolverines were ranked in the AP Top 25, including 11 wins in the top 10.

MSU’S LAST-SECOND WIN AT MICHIGAN IN 2015 PRODUCED NO. 1 PLAY OF THE SEASON –
• Michigan State’s Jalen Watts-Jackson scooped up a fumbled snap on a punt attempt and ran it back 38 yards for a TD as time expired to give No. 7 Michigan State a 27-23 victory at No. 12 Michigan on Oct. 17, 2015. The unforgettable touchdown was named the No. 1 play of the 2015 season at the ESPN College Football Awards Show in Atlanta on Dec. 10.

GROUND GAME KEY FACTOR IN THIS SERIES –
•  The team with the most productive ground attack has won 45 of the last 50 games in the MSU-UM series.

10.24.20_MSU FTBL VS RUTGERS

LAST TIME OUT: RUTGERS 37, MSU 28
• Michigan State had its 21-game winning streak snapped in home season openers after falling to Rutgers, 38-27 . . . the Spartans’ last loss at home to start a season came in 1998 to Colorado State . . . MSU is 102-22 all-time in home openers.

• The Spartans had their six-game winning streak against Rutgers snapped . . . MSU is 6-1 against Rutgers in Big Ten play (since 2014) and 8-4 overall.

• Michigan State is now 84-37-3 all-time in season openers . . . last Saturday marked the first season-opening loss for the Spartans since 2008 at California.

OFFENSE:
• Redshirt junior quarterback Rocky Lombardi recorded career highs in passing yards (319), pass completions (31) and passing touchdowns (3) . . . Lombardi is now 2-2 as the starting quarterback for the Spartans (2-1 as redshirt freshman in 2018 when starter Brian Lewerke was injured).

• In his first game wearing the Green and White, redshirt sophomore Jayden Reed had 11 catches for 128 yards and two scores, becoming the first Spartan to record 100 yards receiving in his debut; Reed transferred from Western Michigan and sat out the 2019 season.

• Redshirt sophomore Jalen Nailor hauled in a career-best six receptions for 84 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

DEFENSE:
• Senior linebacker Antjuan Simmons led the Spartans with career highs in both tackles (11) and tackles for loss (3 for 8 yards). He also had a fumble recovery and one quarterback hurry.

• Redshirt senior defensive end Drew Beesley had a career-high 2.5 tackles for loss, including a 7-yard sack, with six tackles overall.

SPECIAL TEAMS:
Matt Coghlin’s 48-yard field goal to end the first half tied the second-longest of his career, behind a 49-yarder in 2018 season-opener vs. Utah State (8/31/18) and matching a 48-yarder vs. Purdue (10/27/18) . . . Coghlin now has 17 career games with at least two made field goals, including his last four games playing going back to 2019 . . . he also now has made 18 career field goals of 40+ yards . . . Coghlin ranks tied for third in MSU history with 57 field goals made.

A LOOK AT THE COACHING STAFF:
• Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker, who was officially hired on Feb. 12, spent the first two weeks of his tenure putting together his staff. He rounded out his 10 on-field coaching hires on Feb. 28, when he named Scottie Hazelton the Secchia Family Defensive Coordinator. Tucker’s first moves were to retain defensive coaches Ron Burton and Mike Tressel on the staff. For complete bios on all of Tucker’s staff, please visit msuspartans.com.

• A 24-year coaching veteran with stints at all levels of collegiate football and the NFL, Scottie Hazelton arrives in East Lansing after spending one season as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Kansas State in 2019. Hazelton made an immediate impact in his only season at Kansas State, as the Wildcats ranked among the best defensive teams in the Big 12. KSU was second in the conference in scoring defense, allowing just 21.4 points per game, the program’s best mark since 2003. Part of the reason for K-State’s success on defense was the dramatic improvement on third downs; under Hazelton, the Wildcats ranked first in the Big 12 and second in the FBS in third-down defense (.280), compared to eighth in the league and 110th in the FBS the season prior (.448). Overall, the Wildcats ranked fourth in the Big 12 in total defense (368.4 ypg), the best for the program since 2013.

Jay Johnson will serve as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Johnson, 50, is a veteran coach and administrator of 25 seasons, including 10 as an offensive coordinator at four FBS schools (Colorado, Minnesota, Louisiana, Southern Mississippi) in addition to coaching quarterbacks, running backs and tight ends as a position coach. Johnson arrives to East Lansing after serving as the offensive coordinator at Colorado for one season in 2019 under Tucker.

Chris Kapilovic (pronounced kuh-pil-oh-vick) joins the Spartan staff as the offensive line coach and run game coordinator. Kapilovic has nearly 30 years of coaching experience, including roles as an offensive coordinator and/or run game coordinator at Southern Mississippi (2008-11), North Carolina (2012-18) and Colorado (2019). He has coached multiple NFL players, first-round draft picks and record-setting offenses during his career.

• Former Spartan great Courtney Hawkins is joining the offensive staff as the wide receivers coach. Hawkins, who played nine seasons in the NFL, comes to Michigan State after serving as the head football coach and athletic director at his alma mater, Beecher High School, in Flint, Michigan, since 2006.

Ted Gilmore will coach the tight ends for the Spartans. A 25-year coaching veteran with experience at the FBS and NFL ranks, Gilmore has developed numerous NFL players, draft picks and All-Americans during his coaching career. He was named the 2011 FootballScoop Wide Receivers Coach of the Year after mentoring consensus All-American Robert Woods and 2011 Freshman All-American Marqise Lee at USC. Gilmore, 52, spent the previous five seasons (2015-19) as the wide receivers coach at Wisconsin; he was also the offensive pass game coordinator his last three years in Madison.

William Peagler is the program’s running backs coach. He was the director of quality control for the offense last season at Colorado and has been coaching in college for the past 10 seasons. This will be the fifth time he has been on the same staff with offensive coordinator Jay Johnson (Michigan State, Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Louisiana).

• A 30-year coaching veteran, special teams coordinator/linebackers coach Ross Els spent the last three seasons (2017-19) as the inside linebackers coach at Colorado; he added duties of special teams coordinator under Tucker in 2019. Els, 53, has previous experience in the Big Ten, serving as the defensive coordinator at Purdue in 2016 and four seasons at Nebraska under Coach Bo Pelini from 2011-14.

Harlon Barnett is back in East Lansing to coach the cornerbacks after two seasons (2018-19) as the defensive coordinator at Florida State. He was MSU’s associate head coach in 2017, his 11th season on the Spartan staff under Mark Dantonio, before departing for FSU. During Barnett’s time in East Lansing from 2007-17, the Spartans were 100-45 with three Big Ten Championships (2010, 2013, 2015) and were selected for the College Football Playoff in 2015. He coached the defensive backs his entire 11 years under Dantonio at MSU; he was promoted to assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator prior to Michigan State’s victory in the 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic over Baylor, and was appointed the program’s associate head coach in June 2017.

Ron Burton, a 28-year coaching veteran who also played four seasons in the NFL, is in his eighth season on the defensive staff at Michigan State and will coach the defensive line. He has coached in a bowl game 12 of the past 13 seasons, including six bowls with the Spartans (2014 Rose, 2015 Cotton, 2015 College Football Playoff Semifinal, 2017 Holiday, 2018 Redbox, 2019 Pinstripe). After spending his first four seasons at MSU coaching the entire defensive line, Burton shifted his focus to the defensive tackles for three seasons (2017-19). He is the only coach to win the FootballScoop National Defensive Line Coach of the Year Award twice, an honor he won for the second time in 2018 after MSU finished with the top-ranked rushing defense in the country. Burton also won the award during his first season in East Lansing in 2013 when the Spartans claimed the Big Ten Championship, won the Rose Bowl, and finished No. 2 in the FBS in total defense and rushing defense.

Mike Tressel enters his 14th year on the Spartan defensive staff, his first as the safeties coach. Tressel served as the program’s linebackers coach from 2007-19 and also was the special teams coordinator his first eight seasons at MSU. In addition, he was the co-defensive coordinator for three seasons (2015-17) and the sole defensive coordinator for two seasons (2018-19), in addition to being the assistant head coach in 2019. During Tressel’s tenure at MSU, the Spartans have ranked in the FBS Top 10 in total defense and rushing defense on six occasions (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018). Four of those times, Michigan State also ranked among the nation’s top 10 in scoring defense (2011, 2012, 2013, 2018). Michigan State has led the Big Ten in rushing defense six times since 2007, including No. 1 in the FBS in 2014 and 2018.

QUICK LOOK AT THE 2020 SCHEDULE –
• Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan State will play a shortened nine-game conference-only schedule in 2020. The Spartans opened preseason camp on Aug. 7 before the Big Ten Conference postponed the season on Aug. 11. On Sept. 16, the Big Ten announced the 2020 season would start on Oct. 24 with a nine-game schedule.

• The Spartans opened the Mel Tucker era on Oct. 24 against Rutgers in Spartan Stadium. It marked the latest season opener and home opener in Michigan State history.

• Michigan State will travel to Ann Arbor to take on the Wolverines in Michigan Stadium on Oct. 31, followed by another road trip on Nov. 7 to face the Hawkeyes in Iowa City.

• MSU returns home to face Indiana on Nov. 14 in Spartan Stadium in the battle for the Old Brass Spittoon. The Spartans have won 10 of the last 11 meetings against the Hoosiers, including a 40-31 victory in East Lansing last year.

• Michigan State heads to Maryland on Nov. 21 before returning home on Thanksgiving Weekend to face Northwestern on Saturday, Nov. 28.

• The Spartans will host defending Big Ten Champion Ohio State on Dec. 5 in Spartan Stadium and close out the Big Ten East portion of the schedule Dec. 12 at Penn State.

• On the last weekend of the season (Dec. 19), the Big Ten will match teams from the East Division and the West Division for Big Ten Champions Week.

SPARTANS FEATURING YOUNG ROSTER IN 2020 –
• Below is a look at the roster breakdown for the Spartans this season:
    • 47 freshmen (31 true/16 redshirt)
    • 35 sophomores (11 true/24 redshirt)
    • 21 juniors (1 true/20 redshirt)
    • 16 seniors (7 true/8 redshirt/1 grad transfer)

ALL IN THE FAMILY –
• Michigan State has a deep family legacy on the 2020 roster, from siblings to fathers to relatives. In fact, 10 players and four staff members have direct family connections who played Spartan football, or are alumni of the program.
 
Legacy: Matt Allen (brothers Jack and Brian); Michael Dowell (brothers Andrew and David); Dallas Fincher (father Mark); Tate Hallock (father Ty, brother Tanner); Jacob Isaia (grandfather Bob Apisa); David Kruse (brother Connor); Darius Snow (uncle Percy); Alante Thomas (brother Lawrence).
 
Brothers: Jacob/Zach Slade
 
Coaches/Staff: Ron Burton (son, Reid)

Alumni: CB coach Harlon Barnett (CB from 1986-89), Director of Player Engagement Darien Harris (LB from 2012-15), WR coach Courtney Hawkins (WR from 1988-91).

THE 2010s: A DECADE OF SUSTAINED EXCELLENCE FOR SPARTAN FOOTBALL –
• Michigan State just completed its winningest decade in school history based on total wins, as the Spartans went 92-40 (.697) from 2010-19. The 92 wins were third most in the Big Ten and 13th most in the FBS.

• In addition, Michigan State became the fifth Big Ten program to win at least 90 games in a decade (Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin) and the 92 wins were the seventh-most ever by any Big Ten team in a decade.

• During the 2010s, MSU won six bowl games (2012 Outback, 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings, 2014 Rose, 2015 Cotton, 2017 Holiday, 2019 Pinstripe), three Big Ten Championships (2010, 2013, 2015) and three Big Ten Division titles (2011, 2013, 2015). The six bowl wins tied for second most by a Big Ten team in a single decade.

• MSU’s .697 winning percentage last decade was the fourth best in school history. MSU was the only school to finish in the top-six of the national polls from 2013-15 (No. 3 in 2013, No. 5 in 2014, No. 6 in 2015) and the 36 wins from 2013-15 marked the winningest three-year stretch in the history of the program.

• In addition, the Spartans have earned 12 bowl bids since 2007, including a school-record four consecutive bowl victories (2012 Outback against No. 18 Georgia, 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings against TCU, 2014 Rose Bowl Game against No. 5 Stanford, 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic against No. 4 Baylor).

SPARTAN POSITION NOTES

QUARTERBACKS
• Michigan State has four scholarship quarterbacks on its roster – redshirt junior Rocky Lombardi, redshirt sophomore Theo Day, redshirt freshman Payton Thorne and freshman Noah Kim. First-year offensive coordinator Jay Johnson will also coach the quarterbacks for the Spartans.

• Redshirt junior quarterback Rocky Lombardi recorded career highs in passing yards (319), pass completions (31) and passing touchdowns (3) in the season opener against Rutgers on Oct. 24. Lombardi is now 2-2 as the starting quarterback for the Spartans (2-1 as redshirt freshman in 2018 when starter Brian Lewerke was injured).

• Lombardi is the only quarterback on the roster with previous starting experience, as he filled in for Lewerke for three games during the 2018 season as a redshirt freshman, compiling a 2-1 record. He was named the Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week after leading the Spartans to a 23-13 victory over Purdue on Oct. 27, 2018, in his first career start. Lombardi threw for 318 yards against the Boilermakers and completed 26-of-46 passes, including two touchdowns; his 318 yards passing were the second most by a Spartan QB making his first career start (Ed Smith threw for 324 yards in his first career start at North Carolina State in 1976).

• Lombardi started the final two games of the 2018 regular season at Nebraska on Nov. 17 and against Rutgers on Nov. 24 in Spartan Stadium. In his second career start at quarterback vs. Nebraska on Nov. 17, Lombardi collected 199 yards of total offense. He completed 15-of-41 passes for 146 yards and ran for a career-high 53 yards on nine carries (5.9 avg.). In the win over Rutgers, Lombardi was 19-of-43 for 173 yards, one TD and one interception. Lombardi played quarterback in seven games (eight games overall; punted once in an emergency situation at Arizona State). He was 68-of-154 (.442) passing for 738 yards, three TDs and three interceptions.

• As a redshirt sophomore in 2019, the 6-5, 225-pound Lombardi played sparingly, taking 51 snaps over the course of eight games of action. He completed 7-of-21 passes for 74 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions.

• The 6-5, 225-pound Day made two appearances last season, taking one snap against Western Michigan and five snaps vs. Penn State. He was 2-of-3 passing for 12 yards against the Nittany Lions.

• Thorne, who stands at 6-2, 210 pounds, redshirted his first year on campus in 2019. Although he spent a majority of his true freshman season on the scout team, he did see an increased amount of time on the offense during bowl practices.

RUNNING BACKS
• After preserving his redshirt year in 2018 by appearing in just three games, Elijah Collins had a breakthrough season as a redshirt freshman for the Spartans in 2019, leading the team and ranking fourth in the Big Ten with 988 rushing yards (76.0 avg.). Collins, who earned third-team All-Big Ten honors by the media and Pro Football Focus, was just 12 yards shy of becoming MSU’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Jeremy Langford in 2014 and rushed for the second-most yards ever by a Spartan freshman (record: Sedrick Irvin with 1,067 yards in 1996). Collins’ 222 carries were also the most by a Spartan back since Langford in 2014 (276) and the most by a Spartan freshman since Irvin (237) in 1996.

• The Detroit, Michigan, native emerged as one of the top freshman running backs in the nation, ranking third among all FBS freshman RBs in carries (222; 17.1 pg) and fifth in rushing (76.0 ypg). In his first career start against Western Michigan in Week 2, Collins quickly burst onto the scene with 192 rushing yards on just 17 carries (11.3 avg.), the second-most rushing yards ever by a Spartan freshman in a single game. He also had 100-yard rushing games against Illinois (170) and Rutgers (109) and had 96 yards on 21 carries in MSU’s Pinstripe Bowl win over Wake Forest. Collins has been named to watch lists for the Maxwell Award (player of the year) and Doak Walker Award (nation’s top running back).

• MSU also played two true freshman running backs in 2019 as Anthony Williams (12 games) and Brandon Wright (six games) contributed to the Spartan rushing attack. A versatile player who has good hands in the backfield and can also return kicks, Williams recorded 118 rushing yards on 38 carries, six receptions for 77 yards, and five kickoffs for 93 yards. He expects to play a more significant role in the offense during his second season with the Spartans. Wright didn’t play until the second half of the season, but still gained experience with 18 carries for 48 yards.

• Redshirt junior Connor Heyward, who only played in four games in 2019, will also return for the Spartans. A finalist for the Paul Hornung Award as a sophomore in 2018, Heyward has 636 rushing yards and five TDs on 152 carries in 30 career games, including 10 starts. He had 24 carries for 79 yards and seven catches for 52 yards and one TD in the first four games of last season.

• The Spartans add two true freshmen who signed National Letters of Intent as part of the 2020 recruiting class: Donavon Eaglin (Manvel, Texas) and Jordon Simmons (Marietta, Ga.). Simmons led the Spartans with 43 yards on 14 carries in the season opener vs. Rutgers.

• First-year assistant William Peagler will coach the running backs for the Spartans.

WIDE RECEIVERS
• The Spartans are losing their top two receivers from last season in Darrell Stewart and Cody White, but the outlook is bright with several young, promising prospects at the position. The group will be coached by former Spartan star Courtney Hawkins, who in addition to earning first-team All-Big Ten honors twice in college also spent nine seasons playing in the NFL.

• In his first game wearing the Green and White, redshirt sophomore Jayden Reed had 11 catches for 128 yards and two scores against Rutgers, becoming the first Spartan to record 100 yards receiving in his debut; Reed transferred from Western Michigan and sat out the 2019 season. Reed was a FWAA Freshman All-American in his lone season with the Broncos in 2017 with 56 catches for 797 yards and eight TDs; he also had 12 punt returns for 215 yards (17.9 avg.), including a 93-yarder returned for a score.

• Redshirt sophomore Jalen Nailor has provided glimpses of his potential as a playmaker his first two seasons, which have been limited due to injuries, but he should have even more of a chance to make an impact on the field as a full-time starter in 2020.

• Nailor entered the 2019 season as a starter but missed nine games after the season opener due to a foot injury; he returned for the final three games of the season and helped spark a three-game winning streak to close out the year. The Spartans are 9-4 with Nailor in the lineup, including a 4-0 mark last season. As a freshman, Nailor showed his big-play ability with three touchdowns in eight games, including a 75-yard run at Indiana and a 48-yard reception on a flip pass against Purdue. In four games last season, Nailor had 15 receptions for 106 yards, highlighted by a five-catch, 50-yard performance in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Wake Forest.

• Nailor hauled in a career-best six receptions for 84 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown in the third quarter, against Rutgers.

• Although he only played in the final six games of the season as a true freshman, Tre Mosley still ranked fourth on the team with 21 catches for 216 yards and is expected to have an even bigger role in the offense as a sophomore. He burst onto the scene with four grabs for 37 yards against No. 6 Penn State and continued to make an impact down the stretch, including eight catches for 73 against vs. Maryland and four receptions for 50 yards in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl victory over Wake Forest.

• The group will also welcome four true freshmen in 2020 who signed National Letters of Intent with MSU: Montorie Foster, Terry Lockett Jr., Ian Stewart and Ricky White.

TIGHT ENDS
• Although the Spartans lost starter Matt Seybert to graduation, five letterwinners return at tight end for the Spartans. The group will be coached by veteran Ted Gilmore, who has 25 years of experience at the FBS and NFL ranks.

• Three-year letterwinner Matt Dotson, who unfortunately suffered a season-ending Achilles injury vs. Illinois on Nov. 9, 2019, has 32 receptions for 329 yards and two TDs in 31 career games and is back and ready this fall. He caught five passes for 50 yards in the season opener vs. Rutgers.

• Redshirt sophomore Trenton Gillison showed off his potential in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl victory over Wake Forest, catching four passes for 88 yards, including a season-long 64-yard reception in the second quarter that set up a Spartan touchdown. For the season, Gillison had 12 catches for 147 yards in 12 games, including three starting assignments.

OFFENSIVE LINE
• For the second season in a row, Michigan State suffered a rash of injuries on the offensive line in 2019, leading to seven different starting combinations in 13 games, including five of the last six games. The past 26 games in 2018 and 2019, MSU has had 16 different starting o-line combinations. The good news for the Spartans is that the o-line unit returns 11 letterwinners, including 10 with multiple games of starting experience. Veteran coach Chris Kapilovic will mentor the offensive line for the Spartans.

• Three-year letterwinner and fifth-year senior Matt Allen, who was named to the Rimington Trophy Watch List, returns for his third season as the starting center to lead the group. Allen started the first eight games at center in 2019 but missed the last four games of the regular season after suffering an injury against Penn State; he returned to action in the Pinstripe Bowl win against Wake Forest.

• With all of the injuries in 2019, several young linemen gained critical experience, which should pay dividends in 2020. MSU was one of just two schools in the FBS last fall, along with Stanford, to start three true freshmen in the same game on the offensive line when Devontae Dobbs (LT), J.D. Duplain (LG) and Nick Samac (C) all started in the win at Rutgers. Dobbs kept his redshirt year after playing in just four games, while Duplain and Samac both started the final four games of the regular season to earn their letters.

• The injuries especially took a toll at left tackle, as MSU started four different players at the position throughout the season. Kevin Jarvis, who was a two-year starter at right guard, moved to left tackle at the beginning of the season due to preseason injuries to Cole Chewins and AJ Arcuri, and started the first three games before losing the remainder of his season following an injury against Arizona State in Week 3. Jarvis did preserve his redshirt season by playing in just three games. Tyler Higby then assumed the starting role for the next month, but he too was lost for the season due to a midseason injury, clearing the way for Arcuri to return as the starter for three games. Dobbs earned his first career start at Rutgers with Arcuri ailing, but Arcuri still played against the Scarlet Knights and finished out the year starting the final two games at left tackle for a total of five starts.

• Left guard was split between Luke Campbell, who started the first eight games of the season at the position, and J.D. Duplain, who started the final five. Campbell brings a total of 26 games of starting experience to four different positions on the offensive line (12 at right tackle in 2017; nine at left guard in 2018-19; four at right guard in 2018-19; one at left tackle in 2018). Campbell nursed injuries much of 2019 and was forced out of action the final three games of the season.

• Redshirt junior Matt Carrick held down the starting right guard spot in 11 games last year, while fellow junior redshirt Blake Bueter also has nine games of starting experience at both guard and center.

• Senior Jordan Reid had started 26 consecutive games at right tackle and was the only offensive lineman to start every game the past two seasons, but elected to opt out of the 2020 season. Reid played a team-high 964 snaps as a sophomore in 2018 and again led the team with 950 snaps in 2019.

DEFENSIVE LINE
• Michigan State’s defensive line lost three multi-year starters, as All-American defensive end Kenny Willekes (38 starts) and defensive tackles Mike Panasiuk (41 starts) and Raequan Williams (42 starts) all graduated in December. The line will see a familiar face coaching the room, however, as Ron Burton is in his eighth year at Michigan State. Burton, the only two-time winner of the FootballScoop Defensive Line Coach of the Year (2013, 2018), spent his first four years in East Lansing coaching the defensive line, then focused on defensive tackles from 2017-19. He is back to coaching the entire d-line under first-year head coach Mel Tucker, while Secchia Family Defensive Coordinator Scottie Hazelton will also assist with the defensive ends.

• Senior Jacub Panasiuk, a two-year starter at defensive end, returns in 2020 to lead the group after posting career highs in tackles (34), tackles for loss (11) and sacks (5) last season as a junior. The younger Panasiuk has played in 39 career games, including 24 consecutive starts, and has collected 86 tackles, 19.0 tackles for loss and eight sacks in his career.

• On the other end of the line, fifth-year senior Drew Beesley has seen extensive action the past two seasons and could see an even more prominent role this upcoming fall. Beesley played 261 snaps in all 13 games last season and recorded six tackles for loss and 14 stops overall. In the opener against Rutgers, Beesley had a career-high 2.5 tackles for loss, including a 7-yard sack, with six tackles overall.

• Redshirt freshman Michael Fletcher, who was rated the No. 1 defensive end prospect in the state of Michigan coming out of high school, missed the first half of the 2019 season with an injury and preserved his redshirt year; he is likely to see increased playing time as well in 2020. DeAri Todd (R-Jr.) adds depth at the position.

• Up the middle, the Spartans are losing two stalwarts in Mike Panasiuk and Raequan Williams, who started 41 career games alongside each other from 2017-19. Fifth-year senior Naquan Jones appears ready to take over a starting role after seeing regular time in the playing rotation the past three seasons. The 6-4, 340-pound native of Evanston, Illinois, has 54 tackles, including 7.5 TFLs and three sacks, in 39 career games. Redshirt sophomore Jacob Slade also gained valuable experience last season to earn his first letter, playing 262 snaps in all 13 games. He flashed his potential in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, posting a career-best two tackles for loss and his first career sack.

LINEBACKERS
• Senior Antjuan Simmons, who had a breakout season with a team-leading 90 tackles and a career-best 15 tackles for loss as junior in 2019, returns to the starting lineup for the Spartans. He has been named to watch lists for the Bednarik Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy entering the season.

• Simmons started all 13 games (11 at weakside linebacker; two at middle linebacker) in 2019 and will be looked to lead the young group of linebackers that lost multi-year starters Joe Bachie (Mike) and Tyriq Thompson (Sam) to graduation. Simmons led the Spartans with career highs in both tackles (11) and tackles for loss (3 for 8 yards) vs. Rutgers, and also had a fumble recovery and one quarterback hurry.

• Redshirt junior Noah Harvey also has starting experience after stepping up at the end of the 2019 campaign and starting the final five games (two at weakside linebacker, three at strongside linebacker). He ranked eighth on the team with a career-high 49 tackles, including 42 stops during his starting assignments, and had a career-high 14 tackles in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl victory over Wake Forest.

• The linebacker room will be coached by first-year assistant Ross Els, who is also serving as the special teams coordinator.

SECONDARY
• Former Spartan All-American Harlon Barnett, who coached the secondary at MSU for 11 seasons from 2007-17, returns in 2020 to coach the cornerbacks, while longtime Spartan defensive assistant Mike Tressel will coach the safeties. Although the Spartans are losing two three-year starters in safety David Dowell and cornerback Josiah Scott, the secondary still returns 11 letterwinners in 2020.

• Redshirt junior Shakur Brown started the final five games of the 2019 at cornerback and ranked tied for second on the team with five pass break-ups. He missed six games due to injury after a strong opener in which he recorded two sacks against Tulsa, but bounced back to become a starter in the second half of the year. He is now the team’s starting nickelback and had an interception in the opener vs. Rutgers.

• Redshirt sophomore Kalon Gervin also has starting experience after earning the assignment at corner at Ohio State in 2019, and played in 10 games overall with eight tackles. He earned the start in the season opener vs. Rutgers.

• Redshirt sophomores Davion Williams and Chris Jackson are also returning letterwinners who will compete for playing time. Jackson earned his first career start vs. Rutgers.

• Junior Xavier Henderson returns as one of the starting safeties after ranking second on the team with 83 tackles during his sophomore campaign in 2019. He also had two interceptions and two tackles for loss in starting all 13 games and playing 838 snaps, most in the secondary and second-most overall on the defense.

• Senior Tre Person has played at both cornerback and safety during his career, including four starts at cornerback in 2018, but he primarily played safety last season. He earned his first start at safety in the season opener. Redshirt sophomore Michael Dowell played 94 snaps last year, primarily in third-down situations, and will also compete for additional playing time.

SPECIAL TEAMS
• Placekicker: Fifth-year senior Matt Coghlin has been the team’s starting placekicker for the past three seasons and is tied for third in school history with 57 field goals made. Coghlin was a BTN All-Freshman Team honoree in 2017 (15-of-19 on FGs) and was 18-of-22 on field-goal attempts as a sophomore to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors by the media. Last season, Coghlin made a career-high 22 field goals, tied for second most in MSU single-season history; that total also ranked second in the conference and tied for 11th in the FBS. Coghlin, however, is looking to improve his accuracy his senior season (22-of-32, .688 in 2019). He started the year 2-for-2 on field-goal attempts vs. Rutgers (45 and 48 yards).

• Punter: Following the departure of longtime starter Jake Hartbarger, the Spartans are looking for a new starting punter in 2020. Hartbarger received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA in 2019 and was the program’s starting punter dating back to 2015. Redshirt junior Bryce Baringer, who joined the team as a walk-on and punted 15 times in 2018, did not play last season but returns to the roster in 2020. He punted twice in the season opener vs. Rutgers (50.5 avg.). Graduate transfer Mitchell Crawford, a two-year starter from UTEP, also joins the team in 2020.

• Long Snapper: Sophomore Jude Pedrozo had to take over the starting duties last season as a true freshman following a season-ending injury to fifth-year senior Ryan Armour in the season opener. Pedrozo is back in 2020 after an impressive first season in which he was expected to likely redshirt.

• Kickoff specialist: Redshirt junior Cole Hahn was the team’s primary kickoff specialist last season, averaging 57.1 yards with nine touchbacks on 52 kickoffs. Coghlin and Hahn split kickoff duties against Rutgers.

• Kick return: Redshirt sophomore Jayden Reed returned four kickoffs for 65 yards, including a 29-yarder, in the season opener against Rutgers.

• Punt return: Redshirt junior Jalen Nailor returned two punts for 18 yards vs. Rutgers, but did fumble a return in the fourth quarter that led to a Scarlet Knight touchdown.

 

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