Michigan State Football: 5 players poised for a career year

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Jan 1, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Michigan State Spartans linebacker Riley Bullough (30) sacks Baylor Bears quarterback Bryce Petty (14) during the fourth quarter in the 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

There is good news and bad news for Riley Bullough. The good news is that he is related to a long line of successful Bulloughs that have come through MSU, including All-Big Ten middle linebacker brother Max Bullough, meaning that he has to be just as talented as the rest — it’s in his blood. The bad news? There is plenty of hype and expectation to live up to by being related to the legendary Spartan family.

Max played two seasons ago for the Spartans and he will go down as one of the best to ever play the middle linebacker position in Michigan State history while Riley took some of the reigns last year.

Riley appeared in just 13 games, primarily at Sam linebacker, recording just 29 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two interceptions — one of them clinched a Cotton Bowl win over Baylor.

The junior linebacker enters his fourth season with MSU as a co-starter at Mike linebacker, but will likely win the role outright with his aggressive play and ability to play like a Bullough. If Max taught him anything, it’s to be a quarterback on the defensive side of the ball and be the smartest and most ferocious guy on the field at all times.

Don’t sleep on Riley this season as it won’t be tough to top 29 tackles from 2014, but to call his 2015 potential performance a ‘career year’ will be quite the understatement. I fully expect Riley to embrace the starting role and record 70-plus tackles, 5.0 sacks and an interception.

Next: 4. Lawrence Thomas, DL