Mark Dantonio has enjoyed recent success at Michigan State; now he hopes for a Rose Bowl

Michigan State is coming off the winningest two-season run in school history, with 22 victories, a Big Ten tri-championship and a division title.

But for all that success, the Spartans still haven’t played in the Rose Bowl since the 1987 season; that’s also the last time they played in a “major” bowl.

[ Big Ten: Minnesota’s Jerry Kill looks to build on late-season momentum this spring ]

The Spartans look to have the defense to win another Legends Division title and, indeed, the league crown. But a lot of holes need to be filled on offense this spring if the Spartans are to be considered legitimate contenders.

Mark Dantonio has led Michigan State to a total of 22 wins the past two seasons.
(US Presswire)
Michigan State at-a-glance
Coach: Mark Dantonio (6th season)
Last season: 11-3, 7-1 Big Ten
Spring practice dates: March 22-April 20
Returning starters
(minimum 7 starts last season):
Offense (4): T Fou Fonoti, T Dan France, C Travis Jackson, G Chris McDonald
Defense (8): CB Johnny Adams, LB Denicos Allen, LB Max Bullough, CB Darqueze Dennard, E William Gholston, SS Isaiah Lewis, LB Chris Norman, E Marcus Rush
Special teams (2): K Dan Conroy, P Mike Sadler

Michigan State returns four full-time starters along the offensive line – but that’s it on that side of the ball. With the exception of TB Le’Veon Bell, who started six late-season games, the Spartans return no skill-position player who even started once last season. Michigan State lost its top three wide receivers and its top two tight ends. The leading returning receiver is Bell; the leading returning wide receiver had two catches last season.

There looks to be reasonably good depth behind Bell, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Spartans rely more on their rushing attack this season. Still, it will be important this spring for three or four wide receivers to emerge as potential contributors.

Junior Andrew Maxwell is the heir apparent to Kirk Cousins at quarterback. Maxwell has thrown 51 passes in his career.

Defensively, there are few concerns. The Spartans, who return eight defensive starters, will miss T Jerel Worthy. But E William Gholston has All-American potential, and LB Denicos Allen heads what should be one of the best linebacking corps in the Big Ten.

The big loss in the secondary is FS Trenton Robinson, but the defensive backfield still should be a team strength.

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