Michigan State Football: Who will replace Tony Lippett?


The 2014 Michigan State football squad had a very successful season and although the Spartans fell short of the first College Football Playoff, they were able to have an 11-win season, become champions of the Cotton Bowl and finish ranked in the top five nationally.

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These accomplishments do not come without standout production. A large part of the offensive production was fifth-year senior Tony Lippett. Lippett came from relative unknown outside of Spartan Nation, to 2014 Big Ten Receiver of the Year and  fifth-round draft pick to the Miami Dolphins.

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During Lippett’s final year, he produced 92.2 yards a game for a season total of 1,198 yards, which led the Big Ten, to go along with 11 touchdown catches.

Tony was the go-to target for Connor Cook anytime a big play was needed — see the fourth down catch against Baylor to keep the touchdown winning drive alive, for example. With Lippett currently in his first NFL training camp, a player — or players — are going to have to step up and replace his production as well as his clutch playmaking ability.

In my opinion, this production will be done by multiple players and it will appear much like the 2013 Rose Bowl winning receiving corps — a solid group with multiple guys making contributions.

In that year, Bennie Fowler could have been seen as the leader. However, he was not a true No. 1 like Lippett was last year; it was receiver by committee.

Nov 23, 2013; Evanston, IL, USA; Michigan State Spartans tight end Josiah Price (82) is congratulated by wide receiver Aaron Burbridge (16) after a touchdown during the second half against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field. Michigan State won 30-6. Mandatory Credit: Reid Compton-USA TODAY Sports

This year will be nearly the same as Aaron Burbridge will play the Bennie Fowler role. Burbridge has NFL talent, but has yet to put it all together. Inconsistent play as well as injuries have limited Burbridge from reaching his full potential.

However, this year Burbridge will lead the receiving corps in stretching the defense over the top and putting up solid numbers. It will not be Tony Lippett leading the Big Ten numbers but he will be very reliable and more than a solid contributor.

Also playing the part in the most well-rounded receiving core in the Big Ten will be Macgarrett Kings Jr. and R.J. Shelton. Kings and Shelton are two dynamic players when the ball is in their hands.

Sep 20, 2014; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans wide receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr. (85) runs down the field during the first quarter against the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Bubble screens as well as jet sweeps for each are more ways than just the passing game to have them create plays. They are great possession receivers and will be able to move the chains when the Spartans need a big play in a tight spot.

Another player that is built-in the same mold to keep an eye on is DeAnthony Arnett. The fifth-year senior is looking to break through in a big way in his final year as a Spartan. He certainly has the ability, as he was a highly touted recruit, and it appears he has conquered the mental aspect of the game and is now playing freely letting his ability show.

Outside of the receiving group, MSU also boasts two very capable tight ends that will help replace Tony Lippett’s production.

Josiah Price has pro potential and will be an All-Big Ten selection at the end of the season. He is great in the run blocking game but also became a favorite of Cook’s as well. He has great ability to get open in the seam and will create opportunities for not only himself but the rest of the offense as well.

Price’s counterpart is Jamal Lyles who Spartan Nation can also expect big things from. Lyles has struggled in run situations, so it’s been difficult for him to get on the field consistently, but that should change that year. Lyles is extremely athletic and will be a matchup nightmare in the pass game. He is too quick for linebackers to cover and too big for safeties to attempt to defend. Along with Arnett, Lyles will be a breakout Spartan in the pass game as well.

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Tony Lippett left some very large shoes to fill.

From a leadership and production standpoint, the Spartans could not have dreamt of a better No. 1 receiver. Although no single Spartan player will match Lippett’s numbers in 2015 the overall group will exceed what Lippett did.

With their overall balance and versatility Spartan Nation will not see a drop off in the MSU passing game.

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