Michigan State Football: 3 biggest surprises from 2021 season

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Mel Tucker was one of the best coaches in the country in 2021 and he had a little help from Michigan State football’s pleasantly-surprising players.

The 2021 season was an all-around pleasant surprise for Michigan State football fans. Fresh off a 2-5 campaign in 2020, Michigan State was expected to be “one of the worst” Power Five teams in the country in 2021, according to some ill-informed sites, but the Spartans finished 11-2 with a Peach Bowl win.

Mel Tucker turned things around in just one year and his recruiting approach has been fantastic as well. He currently has the No. 17 class in the country for 2022 which would give the Spartans their first top-20 class since 2016 — and we all know how that ended up.

Things are trending in the right direction and Michigan State’s shocking success in 2021 could be partially credited to a few players.

Which three players were the biggest surprises in 2021?

Connor Heyward
H-back Senior

Through four years at Michigan State, it felt like Connor Heyward was in the wrong position and everyone but the coaching staff saw it. Mel Tucker needed a season to realize just where Heyward needed to be playing for the Spartans and he switched the senior to tight end or H-back which worked wonders for his career.

Heyward rebounded to become one of the biggest surprises on the team and a potential NFL prospect after flourishing in his new position, catching 35 passes for 326 yards and three scores.

While Heyward was an excellent pass-catcher for the Spartans as a tight end or H-back, he also improved drastically as a blocker. He was an all-around improved and more confident player for the Spartans in 2021 and I don’t think anyone saw this coming after a few years of disappointing running back play.

Everyone is a huge Heyward fan now.

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