For the next two weeks, we’ll be taking a look at where each B1G team needs to improve and answering pressing questions this offseason. For some it’s establishing depth, and for others, it’s learning a new system. Whatever it is, each team has at least five things to take care off before 2016 kicks off.

1. Replace Jack Conklin 

You thought I’d start with something about the quarterbacks, didn’t you? Well, Conklin was the guy who just became the highest draft pick ever in the Mark Dantonio era. All-American left tackles don’t grow on trees. For Michigan State to retain its elite status, finding a new blind-side protector — and run-game bulldozer — is a major priority.

That responsibility could fall to Dennis Finley, who filled in for Conklin when he was injured last year. Finley broke his leg and missed the rest of the 2015 season. The good news is that Finley stayed healthy and played well in the spring game. Without any setbacks, he’ll be the favorite to take Conklin’s job.

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Finley only played in eight games in his MSU career, which is even more than the other left tackle candidate, David Beedle. After beginning his career on the defensive side, Beedle made the switch to offense last year and has progressed significantly.

Neither will be expected to turn into Conklin, but getting somewhere close would certainly help MSU’s chance of repeating as B1G champs.

2. Find new go-to receiver

I never understood why Aaron Burbridge didn’t get the national attention he deserved. At times, the B1G’s leading receiver made Cook look extremely good. I already complained about how his draft-fall was equally surprising as Cook’s.

But without the versatile Burbridge, MSU needs a new go-to receiver. R.J. Shelton could be the new No. 1, but he operates better in the slot and his role on special teams could prevent that. Everybody is set on Donnie Corley becoming MSU’s next go-to receiver, but depending on a true freshman to do that is asking for a lot. Josiah Price is one of the top tight ends in the country, but he hasn’t been used as much more than a red-zone threat in his career.

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So what does MSU do? Maybe each of those three will trade off being the go-to target. Maybe underclassmen Felton Davis and Darrell Stewart can build off of solid springs and take advantage of their opportunity.

There will be quite the offseason competition brewing at quarterback, but there will be another important competition to decide who will get Burbridge’s targets.


3. Develop LJ Scott

The hype is going to continue to build with Scott, and understandably so. Everybody remembers his stretch to beat Iowa in the B1G Championship. As a true freshman, Scott looked every bit like the highly sought-after recruit he was pegged as. Naturally, there will be plenty of people predicting big things for Scott. Many have already likened him to Le’Veon Bell.

But keep in mind that Scott started one game in 2015 and he averaged just shy of 50 rushing yards per contest. Only twice did he get 18 carries in a game. He was only a rotational guy because Dantonio didn’t feel he was a complete back yet. He’s still learning how to make the right reads to maximize his 230-pound frame and explosive lower half.

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Scott also figures to have competition in the backfield. Gerald Holmes and Madre London will both get work, as could Delton Williams as a fullback. Whoever MSU starts at quarterback will also call his own number from time to time.

That isn’t to say that Scott will get lost in the shuffle like he did on several occasions in 2015. There’s certainly a path for Scott to become an All-B1G back, but he has to overcome a few more things than some realize to get there.

And just in case you forgot about that famous Scott run, here it is one more time:

4. Get Kevin Williams up to speed

Michigan State lost some major depth on its defensive line from 2015. Besides losing starters Shilique Calhoun, Lawrence Thomas and Joel Heath to the NFL, Montez Sweat and Craig Evans left the team and Damon Knox decided not to petition the NCAA for a sixth year.

Luckily for Michigan State, Williams needed a new home.

The graduate transfer reportedly filed his paperwork to transfer from Nebraska to MSU, where he’ll be eligible to play immediately. That doesn’t mean he’ll be ready to play immediately. The sixth-year defensive tackle missed spring practices with a wrist injury that sidelined him for part of 2015.

Before he can make any sort of impact in East Lansing, he has to get healthy. If he doesn’t, talented redshirt freshman Raequan Williams and Cassius Peat could beat Williams out for the starting job.

Williams, who never liked the sound of being a backup at Nebraska, will have to come into fall camp ready to take advantage of his new opportunity.

5. Oh yeah, settle the quarterback battle (privately)

Ah, yes. Who could forget the B1G position battle that’ll receive the most attention this offseason?

Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry are both vying to take over for Cook. By now, you know that O’Connor is the fifth-year senior favorite and Terry’s mobility gives MSU a unique dimension it hasn’t had in recent memory. After watching the spring game — or at least the first half — it might’ve been easy to assume that O’Connor would certainly be the starter.

But Dantonio wasn’t about to crown anyone when he can let this thing play out into August, or even into September, as he suggested.

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Honestly, it doesn’t matter very much how early Dantonio makes the decision known to the public. What is important is when that decision is made behind closed doors. That will give the starter a chance to get snaps in with the No. 1s and develop the chemistry MSU will need to look sharp out of the gate.

Dantonio doesn’t always make the conventional decision at quarterback. He built MSU into a QB factory without the help of four-star recruits. He knows what works and what doesn’t work for his system.

Just don’t expect him to announce his starter the same day he makes up his mind.