Michigan State has built its reputation on terrorizing defenses, and it culminated in a berth in the College Football Playoff this past season. However, things are going to be just a bit more difficult with the news that defensive tackle Craig Evans and defensive end Montez Sweat have left the program “for personal reasons.”
Given this is a defensive line still having to replace three starters, and both have been getting snaps throughout their careers these losses hurt. It hurts depth, even if both were not going to be starters.
Defensive end is a particularly sore spot because of this lose. With Sweat gone, it means Demetrius Cooper has to be a winner at one spot (and he hasn’t been a big time player so far this spring). It also means that MSU must turn to a sixth-year senior (Evan Jones) or a freshman (Josh King) to become a reliable starter.
That may be asking a lot, and with Sweat out of the picture it just stretches the potential depth at defensive end even thinner. It wasn’t as if Sweat was a make-or-break player, but given the lack of experience at the position, his playing time was a big advantage and a big help to a rebuilding position group.
As for Evans, there have been fewer players with more talent and more troubling play at the same time. He likely was the first guy off the bench on the interior rotation, and with Malik McDowell staring inside at least this group has a known quantity heading in to the season.
Still, missing a player that had 21 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and one sack in just his redshirt freshman season is a big blow to a position that needs the experienced bodies next to McDowell.
However, it isn’t like these two didn’t have plenty of question marks surrounding their own play and their own positions within the program as a whole.
Could the program see these two departures coming? No doubt, as Sweat spent most of his redshirt freshman season in East Lansing suspended, and Evans spent most of his time blowing his potential by being in Dantonio’s dog house.
While we don’t know what personal issues took over for either player, it is clear that both had issues inside the program from the time they arrived on the Michigan State campus. Having them focus on getting the personal side of life right is far more important than anything football-related.
As for the Spartans of 2016, the experience Evans and Sweat possessed could’ve helped a defensive line full of potential, but with plenty of question marks. Instead, the season ahead will be a huge test of the “next man up” mentality this program has had since Dantonio arrived on campus.