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Michigan State football will be missing one cornerback for sure Saturday. Another is possibly done for his career.
Coach Mel Tucker confirmed Tuesday sophomore cornerback Chris Jackson is no longer with the program. And he said he planned to talk later that afternoon to Shakur Brown to see if the junior, who entered his name for the 2021 NFL draft on Monday, would be playing Saturday when the Spartans travel to Maryland (7:30 p.m., BTN) to wrap up the regular season.
Jackson started the first two games then missed the Iowa and Indiana games due to injury. He returned in a reserve role against Northwestern and Ohio State but was not in uniform again for Saturday’s 39-24 loss at Penn State.
“Chris hasn't been with the team, and I really don't anticipate him being back with the team this season,” Tucker said. “We'll assess everything with Chris after the season when we're all wrapped up.”
Jackson had nine tackles, two of them for a loss, and one pass breakup this fall.
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Brown is tied for the national lead with five interceptions and has 25 tackles and four pass breakups while starting all seven games this fall. He began the season as the nickelback but returned to cornerback when Jackson got hurt.
“I like Shak, I love the kid. He's improved, he's made a lot of plays this year,” Tucker said. “I think he's got tremendous upside. I really enjoy working with him. I wish them all the best.”
Should Brown be done, it would leave starting cornerback Kalon Gervin and nickel back Angelo Grose remaining. Grose could slide over to Brown’s spot on the edge with junior Michael Dowell stepping into the nickel spot. Senior Dominique Long or redshirt freshman Davion Williams could step in at corner as well, with the freshman Grose remaining as the fifth defensive back.
MSU last week lost Julian Barnett to the transfer portal. The sophomore played cornerback and nickel back this season after moving from wide receiver as a true freshman in 2019.
Tucker also admitted having private conversations with other players about possibly sitting out Saturday but did not reveal who they are.
“It could happen,” Tucker said. “Every year at this time of year, these discussions may start. They started weeks ago. You just have to see how it goes throughout the week. It's a pretty normal occurrence. Guys are making decisions on what they think's in their best interest.”
Two veterans with potential futures in the NFL are linebacker Antjuan Simmons and defensive tackle Naquan Jones, both seniors.
Simmons ranks third in the Big Ten with 75 tackles and leads the Spartans with nine tackles for a loss. Simmons also has a sack, two fumble recoveries, two pass breakups and two QB hurries in seven games. He has registered double-digit tackles in all but one game, when he had just four at Iowa while playing through an undisclosed injury.
MSU predominantly has used just three linebackers this season in its 4-2-5 defense, with junior starter Noah Harvey and sophomore backup Chase Kline the other two.
Jones has been a stalwart at nose tackle the past three seasons, but this is his first year as a starter. The 6-4, 340-pound fifth-year senior has five of his 24 tackles for a loss with two QB hurries, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery.
MSU doesn’t have the same depth issues in the interior of the defensive line as it does at linebacker and cornerback, with sophomores Jacob Slade and Dashaun Mallory and redshirt freshman Maverick Hansen contributing this season.
Another player, senior defensive end Jacub Panasiuk, missed last week’s game at Penn State. He originally opted out over concerns about COVID-19 but opted back in when the Big Ten announced it would play this fall after its initial postponement of the season. MSU rotated senior Drew Beesley, junior Jack Camper, redshirt freshman Michael Fletecher and true freshman Jeff Pietrowski on the defensive edge Saturday.
Want to bowl
Tucker said the Spartans need to play football, and he would push to accept a bowl invitation should one be extended to them.
“If we were asked to play, I would love to play,” he said. “I want to play, I want to practice, I want to compete. I want to get more practice time with our guys and keep developing our guys, just seeing how far we can take this team and what this team can become before we turn the page to our offseason conditioning program and then lead them to spring ball and things like that. I want to play as much as possible.”
“I'm used to coaching a lot more football and used to playing a lot more games than this. Shoot, if we can get we get anything going, I'd love the play, man. If we can a pickup game going unofficially somewhere, I'd do that. We need to play football.”
MSU is 2-4 going into Saturday’s game at Maryland (2-5), but the NCAA waived win requirements this season to participate in a bowl. However, a number of postseason games already have been canceled, while programs such as Boston College, Pitt, Stanford and Virginia all have announced they will decline any bowl invitations.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State football: Chris Jackson off team, Shakur Brown in limbo