Michigan State Spring Game 2015: 5 players who need to step up


More from Spartans Football

We are less than a week away from this year’s Spartan football spring game, taking place on Saturday April 25 at Spartan Stadium. Each year, new players emerge and others lose their footing on the depth chart. The spring game, however, should be taken with a grain of salt. Much more will be weighted on how the players performed during these past weeks in spring practice.

However, it is still a game that will be viewed by at least 40,000 fans, hopefully, in the stadium and more on TV. It’s nice to see players who can step up on the bigger stage, albeit an intersquad scrimmage, and show what they have learned on the practice field.

In the spring game, each fan will have their own individual player or group of players that they will be keeping an eye on. Below, I will take a look at the five players who have the most to prove in during the game.

This could be a player looking to make a name for themselves that is newer in the program or a player that has been in the system for years and it is time for them to show they have grown into a player that can make contributions on Saturdays.

1. DeAnthony Arnett, WR

There are very few players that have intrigued Spartan fans as much as Arnett. DeAnthony is entering his final year of eligibility and third year with Michigan State. Arnett had a very successful freshman year with the Tennessee Volunteers in which he played in all twelve games and had 24 catches for 242 yards and two touchdowns in his only year for the Volunteers. Arnett transferred to Michigan State to be closer to his ailing father who resides in Saginaw.

Upon that transfer, Michigan State fans envisioned Arnett coming right in and becoming an immediate contributor for the remaining three years he would be a Spartan. The hype, however, has not followed and Arnett has struggled to find a place in the Spartans’ offense.

Coaches have had various reasons to not put Arnett on the field during his career, from not grasping the offense, to poor route running as well as poor blocking. Spartan fans have never given up on Arnett hoping that “this could be the year” he puts it all together and lives up to his hype.

Well Spartan fans, this is the last year for him to get onto the field. Arnett will have to battle for playing time in a deep receiving core, his journey began in spring practices and MSU fans will now get their first look at the 2015 version of Arnett. Let’s see if this is finally the year he puts it all together and becomes the player we have dreamt about.

2. Tyler O’Connor, QB

This probably seems like an odd pick for someone who needs to prove themselves. In 2015, MSU fans are hoping the only reason O’Connor is on the field is if it is for a special package/play or if it is a blowout MSU victory and he has come in for mop up duty.

If Tyler comes onto the field for reasons other than those two it is probably not a good thing for Spartan fans. This means most likely he is in mop up duty in an MSU loss or even worse Connor Cook has gone down and gotten hurt, terrifying to think of given the season that Cook could have this year.

Jan 1, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Michigan State Spartans quarterback Tyler O

O’Connor is a player that needs to prove himself for a non-starting reason. He is in an extremely heated battle for backup to Cook. He and Damion Terry, who also could have gone into this slot, are battling it out for the right to back up Cook. Terry has all of the hype and hope of Spartan fans, something he has had since he stepped on campus at East Lansing. O’Connor has not had this backing or hype yet he continues to impress the coaching staff.

Coming into spring practices, he was listed as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart but Terry is breathing down his neck.

In order for O’Connor to keep his status he is going to need to continue to improve and this spring game is another opportunity for him to show his skills to the coaching staff and the fans. O’Connor has risen to the occasion each time it has appeared Terry has closed the gap.

This, once again, seems to be the case with Terry playing well in scrimmages and practice; let’s see if O’Connor can continue to hold him off from the backup quarterback spot.

3-5. Arjen Colquhoun/Darian Hicks/Vayante Copeland, CB

To round out the five, I’m going to take a look at three players fighting for one starting spot. It appears that Demetrious Cox is starting to solidify himself as one of the two starting corners. That leaves one opening at corner and Spartan fans will get a good look this weekend at the contenders. It is a three-man race between Arjen Colquhoun, Darian Hicks and Vayante Copeland.

Colquhoun and Copeland fall into the category of players that need to prove themselves. Neither has seen significant time on Saturdays in a primary role.

Oct 25, 2014; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans cornerback Darian Hicks (2) reacts to a play during the 1st half of a game at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Arjen is a fifth-year senior that has played on special teams and in situations that require multiple corners. He recorded his first career interception last year against Rutgers. Coaches have spoken highly of him during practices this spring and now Spartan fans will get to see how the seasoned player performs in the spotlight for the first time.

Copeland is a redshirt freshman with tons of potential that may be the answer for the future. Copeland is still coming into the role but is definitely a contender. He absolutely falls into the camp of players that need to prove themselves, again this will be another opportunity for him to flash his athleticism and make his case to secure the starting spot.

Hicks is a junior and the reigning starter. The 2014 season started off strong for Hicks as he won the opportunity to replace Darqueze Dennard who won the Thorpe Award for the nation’s top corner and was drafted in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. At the beginning of the season it appeared as though Hicks had grasped the role and will be in the spot for years to come. However, Hicks struggled in several games, losing his confidence and ultimately was replaced as a starter.

Darian needs to step up this spring during practice as well as in this game. He needs to show the coaching staff and fans that he has gotten stronger and has regained his confidence. Coaches have stated he is very much in the mix for the starting position but needs to forget about bad plays and work through them.

These players ultimately will not win or lose the positions that they are fighting for in this single game. The spots will be won and lost in practices that have happened and practices to come. The spring game does play a role in the decision process for the coaches though. However, each player wants to have a standout day when given their opportunities in order to give the coaches something to remember them by until fall camp starts.

Spartan Nation and the coaches will see Saturday who will seize the moment and prove they belong or step up into the roles that they want.

More from Spartan Avenue