Michigan State football heavily represented in Athlon Sports’ top players


With the 2015 college football season quickly approaching, fans are starting to get extremely excited about the potential of this year’s Michigan State team. Head coach Mark Dantonio has assembled quite the team this year and it will likely be ranked in the top 10 when the season begins.

More from Spartans Football

Preseason football rankings are always interesting to take a look at — especially when they are top player rankings.

Athlon Sports releases lists of top players in college football every year and they recently came out with the ‘Big Ten Pre-Spring Top 15 Player Rankings for 2015′ one.

Michigan State was heavily represented on the list and so was the Big Ten East division as the Spartans had four of the 15 and the East Division had 13 out of 15. This just goes to show how competitive the Spartans’ division is with teams like Ohio State and Michigan on the rise.

Let’s take a look at the four players who were ranked on the list for MSU.

2. Connor Cook, QB, Senior

Nov 22, 2014; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans quarterback Connor Cook (18) looks for a receivers during the1st quarter of a game at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

One spot behind Ohio State defensive lineman Joey Bosa, the senior quarterback will be one of the best in the nation for 2015, but he will need to find a new favorite target with Tony Lippett heading to the NFL.

Last year, Cook passed for 3,214 yards, 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions while leading the Spartans to a comeback win against Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. Everyone believes he’s the top quarterback in the Big Ten and, with a bit more mobility, could be the best in the country.

5. Shilique Calhoun, DE, Senior

Jan 1, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Michigan State Spartans defensive end Shilique Calhoun (89) rushes Baylor Bears quarterback Bryce Petty (14) in the game in the 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Calhoun decided to skip the NFL despite being considered a lock for a first-round pick. Let’s hop the defensive end doesn’t take a William Gholston-esque drop to the middle rounds when he does go pro after this season, however.

Recording 39 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks and a forced fumble last year, he quickly rose up the ranks as one of the best defensive players in all of college football.

In my opinion, being ranked fifth is a bit low as he is somehow one spot behind Penn State’s quarterback, Christian Hackenberg who struggled mightily last year.

7. Jack Conklin, OT, Junior

Jan 1, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Michigan State Spartans offensive tackle Jack Conklin (74) blocks Baylor Bears defensive end Shawn Oakman (2) during the 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium. The Spartans defeated the Bears 42-41. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The former walk-on lineman has been one of the best in the conference for the past couple of years and he has taken everyone surrounding the program by surprise.

Heck, even NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said Conklin has the potential to leave school early and be a first-round selection in the 2016 draft. One more year in school and Conklin could find himself in the top spot in next year’s player rankings.

11. Jack Allen, C, Senior

Nov 2, 2013; East Lansing, MI, USA;Michigan State Spartans quarterback Connor Cook (18) takes the snap of the ball from offensive linesman Jack Allen (66) during the 2nd half of a game against the Michigan Wolverines at Spartan Stadium. MSU won 29-6. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Allen, along with Conklin, anchor one of the best offensive lines in the conference and could very well be the reason that the MSU run game becomes even more versatile despite the departure of senior running back Jeremy Langford.

Madre London, Gerald Holmes, LJ Scott and possibly Delton Williams could easily find holes behind this brick wall of an offensive line. This is one of the most experienced in the nation and will be a force behind Allen and Conklin.

Michigan State sophomore defensive tackle Malik McDowell was also mentioned as one of the other players to watch in 2015. He could become the next big star on the defensive line and will be the plus in the middle of the defensive front.

The Spartans were heavily represented, like I said earlier, on the list while Ohio State had six players of their own mentioned.

This is going to be an interesting season.

More from Spartan Avenue