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Camp previews: Michigan State

Camp previews: Michigan State

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Outback Bowl - Michigan State vs. Georgia

Michigan State football defeats the Georgia Bulldogs in the Outback Bowl 33-30 in Tampa, Florida on Monday January 2, 2012.

We continue our Big Ten team previews in advance of preseason camps.

We completed the Leaders Division.

So, it's on to the Legends, in predicted order of finish.

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The guys in green get the nod at the top ...


Last year's record: 11-3, 7-1 Big Ten (won division)

Vs. Top 25: 3-2

Returning starters: Offense 4, defense 8, special teams 2

Head coach: Mark Dantonio (44-22 in five years at MSU)

The lowdown on offense: I wouldn't rule out an upgrade at quarterback, where Michigan State loses Kirk Cousins. However, the Spartans expect junior Andrew Maxwell (6-foot-3, 212 pounds) to make a smooth transition from two-year backup to starter. He's reportedly more athletic than Cousins and is said throw well on the run. He'll hand off to 6-2, 238-pound Le'Veon Bell, who last season rushed for 948 yards and 13 touchdowns. Bell, surprisingly nimble for a big man, could benefit from an offensive line that returns four starters. MSU, however, incurred critical losses at the receiver positions, losing three wideouts to the NFL, including B.J. Cunningham -- the program's all-time leading pass catcher.

The skinny on defense: Michigan State figures to have one of the nation's best defenses, despite the loss of interior lineman Jerel Worthy. It's difficult to imagine too many teams anywhere having a better defensive end tandem than the Spartans' William Gholston (6-7, 275) and Marcus Rush (6-2, 250). Gholston is an All-America-caliber player, and Rush is sneaky quick. What's more, the Spartans possess one of the nation's finest linebacker crews, led by Denicos Allen (5-11, 232), Max Bullough (6-3, 252) and Chris Norman (6-1, 230). If all that weren't enough, MSU's secondary features All-Big Ten cornerback Johnny Adams as well as returning starter Darqueze Dennard at the other corner spot. It also helps that the Spartans have a wealth of proven players returning on special teams.

What's new? MSU's offense may get a jolt from Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett, who was granted immediate eligibility because he left the Vols to be near his ailing father. He had 24 catches last season as a true freshman.


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