2012 may not have been a grand year for Spartan football, but there have been some outstanding players on the football team. However, one shouldn’t overlook the other Michigan State teams when compiling a list of the players to watch from this past year. Here are the top ten players whose names everyone should know (in no particular order).
November 3, 2012; East Lansing, MI, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers safety P.J. Smith (13) trips up Michigan State Spartans running back Le’Veon Bell @Mike Carter, USA Today Sports, 11/3/2012
1. Le’Veon Bell - Junior – Football
This guy is a beast. I mean that in the best possible way. Just watch him as he carries guys down the field on his back as he strides along carrying that ball down the field. Bell had his best season yet in 2012, coming in second for total yards carried in a single season at MSU – 1,648. He rushed 266 yards against the Minnesota Golden Gophers and scored the winning touchdown in the last game of the season. Bell has already begun receiving top honors. In 2012, he was voted Most Valuable Player (Governor’s Award) by his teammates; he won first-team All-Big Ten Selection by both coaches and media and first-team All-Big Ten Pick by ESPN.com; he was one of ten semi-finalists for the Doak Walker Award; and he received the CFPA Elite Running Back Trophy.
He’s also won the following awards
- Honorable mention All-Big Ten selection coaches and media
- Named to the CollegeFootballNews.com All-Sophomore Team (honorable mention)
- Received the team’s Most Outstanding Underclass Back Award for offense
- Big Ten All-Freshman honors from Rivals.com and ESPN.com
- Was added mid-season to the Doak Walker Award watch list
2. Gary Harris – Freshman – Men’s Basketball
Dec 18, 2012; Bowling Green, OH, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo (left) celebrates with guard Gary Harris (14) and the rest of the Spartan bench during the second half against the Bowling Green Falcons at The Stroh Center. Spartans beat the Falcons 64-53. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Gary Harris is already having a banner first-year despite a shoulder injury early in the season. He’s been named Big Ten’s Freshman of the week twice now for high-scoring games. Harris was a powerhouse during his high school years as well. Awards he won during his time as a high school senior include:
- 2012 McDonald’s All-American
- 2012 Jordan Brand Classic Game invitee
- 2012 Indianapolis Star Indiana Mr. Basketball winner
- 2012 Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year
- 2012 Indiana All-Star with MVP Honors
- 2012 Parade Magazine All-American
Harris definitely has drive. It will be fascinating to see what he does in the coming years as part of the team. He certainly has a winner quality to him that should take him far in his basketball career – if he can take care of his shoulder. Despite the injury, in his comeback game, he scored 20 points against Loyola-Chicago.
3. Michael McClure – Junior – Wrestling (not pictured)
We don’t talk a lot about the wrestling team on here, although we should. This year’s wrestling team has been having a banner year. Michael McClure, a junior heavyweight, has been tearing up the mat and taking names. In 2012, he took honors as Big Ten Wrestler of the Week twice. Once this past week, and once for the Week of November 13. McClure’s individual record is 17-1, and he has been ranked individually at number 7. Last year, he ranked as high as number 10. His freshman year, he took first place at the National Collegiate Open. With such a stellar year this year, it will be interesting to see how he continues to perform in coming weeks.
Dec 15, 2012; East Lansing, MI, USA; Tuskegee Golden Tigers guard Javier McKinney (2) drives to the basket against Michigan State Spartans guard Denzel Valentine (45) during the 1st half at Jenison Field House. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
4. Denzel Valentine – Freshman – Men’s Basketball
Denzel Valentine is another freshman bringing new life to the Michigan State basketball team. Early on in the season, he was already showing fans that he’s one to watch. Like Harris, Valentine has a tendency to rack up the points for his team. In the most recent game against Bowling Green, Valentine scored 12 points, helping his team win the game with a 64-53 point victory. While Valentine hasn’t received quite as much attention as his teammate, he’s in a good position to make a splash in Spartan basketball for a time to come. Some of the Lansing native’s honors from his senior year in high school include:
- 2012 Lansing State Journal Player of the Year
- 2012 Associated Press Class B Player of the Year
- 2012 Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News Honoree
- Finished Second in the Hal Schram Mr. Basketball Award
I have no doubt that if Valentine can rein in some of his freshman style mistakes, he will rocket forward to be one of the Spartans we remember for some time to come.
5. Dion Sims – Junior – Football (Not Pictured)
Dion Sims has had a stellar career at Michigan State. He lettered two years, and he has played four years as a Spartan at MSU. He played the second half of this past season with a broken hand. Despite that, Sims has had some pretty big honors. He was an All-Big Ten candidate for the fourth team by Phil Steele; he was a first team All-Big Ten candidate selection; and he was named to the Mackey Award watch list midseason. He was named the John Mackey Award and CFPA National Tight End of the Week. His team presented him with the Up Front Award (Outstanding Offensive Lineman) at their awards ceremony. Keep an eye on him; rumor has it, the NFL has been looking at him (as well as Bell) in their scouting efforts.