Michigan State has been on a bit of a roller-coaster the past few years, with seasons that have been good, bad and ugly.
The Spartans actually had a little bit of all three a year ago in posting a 7-6 record. The defense was good — really good, like No. 1 in the country good — but the season was bad because they offense was downright ugly.
That needs to change in 2019. Michigan State starts the season ranked No. 18 in the first Associated Press poll. That’s fine except there are three teams in the Big Ten East ahead of the Spartans — Ohio State is No. 5, Michigan is ranked No. 7, and Penn State is No. 15 — and an up-and-coming team like Indiana is nipping at their heels. So a few guys are going to need to step up.
Here’s a look at the most important person on both sides of the ball for Michigan State this season:
Offense: Cody White, wide receiver
Big things were expected of Cody White a year ago, but a broken hard forced him to miss four games. There were so many injuries on the offensive side of the ball that the offense never got going. That has to change this season, for sure.
With quarterback Brian Lewerke back to throw to him, Michigan State has made it a point of emphasis to have more explosive plays this season. Enter White, who can break a play anytime, anywhere.
“(The injuries) played a part in our struggles last year, but we don’t like to make excuses here at Michigan State,” he said. “It’s just about the next guy up and try to overcome it.”
White is ready to do that. He led Michigan State with 555 receiving yards a year ago, and that was after a freshman season when he had 35 receptions for 490 yards. He’s 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds and can run, has great hands and a crazy vertical leap.
Defense: Joe Bachie, middle linebacker
Michigan State’s defense carried this team a year ago, and they were impressive in doing it. Doing described their talent — and the team’s plight — more than than 7-6 bowl game loss to high-flying Oregon. The Spartans shut them down for all but one drive, and it still wasn’t enough.
Eight starters and back and none are more important than middle linebacker Joe Bachie, who is the heart and soul of this defense and its vocal team leader. Others may have more talent, but he makes this team go. He holds everyone accountable, on no one more than himself.
He’s 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds and he destroys people as a tackler. He’s a film junkie who’s always prepared for every game. He even watches film with other position groups, just to know more and to make sure they are all on the same page.
He’s a throwback linebacker who’s a blast to watch. And he’ll make this group great again.
Bachie told the Detroit Free-Press a great story that sums up his playing style perfectly. It happened in the game against Penn State in 2017, when quarterback Trace McSorley called an audible — and Bachie knew exactly the play he was switching to..
“It was a cool experience actually,” Bachie said. recalling the play from his sophomore season. “Once you say it, the offensive line usually looks up, knowing you called the right play. Then it’s, ‘Ah, (shoot).’ That’s a good feeling for a linebacker.”