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Keep your enemies close: Michigan State Spartans

A big year from these two players should help the Spartans in the race for the Big Ten East title.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Who are the best players on the team Wisconsin is playing in any given week? We aim to find out and give you mini scouting reports on them so you can sound smart talking to your friends by saying “well, actually...” and then whatever smart thing we tell you. You’re welcome in advance for being the go-to friend in your group for Michigan State football knowledge.

Everyone in the media talks Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State and for good reason! They’re blue blood programs with loudmouth coaches which naturally draws in the media attention. However, Michigan State continually produces winning seasons with lesser talent and quieter coaches. Additionally, they are the only Big Ten team, other than Ohio State, to make it to the College Football Playoff. If the Spartans want to get back to that spot and play dark horse in a crowded Big Ten East they’ll need serious production from these two experienced players.

Best Offensive Player: QB Brian Lewerke, senior, No. 14

Brian Lewerke’s career at Michigan State can best be described as up and down. In 2017, Lewerke started all 13 games and led the Spartans to a 10-3 season. During that season he had 3,352 yards of total offense which set a record for underclassman at Michigan State. He was also the only quarterback in school history to throw for 400 yards in back to back games. It appeared as though Lewerke would be a star in the years to come. However in 2018 regression crept up. Lewerke started 10 contests for the Spartans but only threw for 2,040 yards, eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

You’re probably saying, ok well how is he the best offensive player for Michigan State then? Well it depends on to what you attribute his regression. Lewerke played much of 2018 in pain. A shoulder injury nagged him for most of the year, which also snapped his consecutive starts streak at 20. Lewerke has been said to be fully healthy coming into 2019 which in turn should allow him to bounce back and return to his old form. If he can do that he’ll be a prominent force in Michigan State’s offense and should return to being one of the top quarterbacks in the conference.

Best Defense Player: DE Kenny Willekes, senior, No. 48

Kenny Willekes was a wrecking ball in 2018 and should be even better in 2019. Last year he was named an All-American by various media outlets and was rewarded with the 2018 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year award. According to Pro Football Focus, Willekes was the second highest rated edge rusher in the Big Ten with a grade of 89.7 which of course earned him All-B1G accolades.

What makes Willekes so great is his ability to get to the quarterback. He’s a pure edge rusher and his combination of strength, size and speed make him an absolute nightmare to try and block. If you attempt to stop him with just a single offensive lineman, you’re likely in for a long day. He often takes on additional tight ends and running backs yet remains productive. Another trait that you see in him is his high motor. Willekes is a guy that just doesn’t quit until he hears a whistle. If he can have an equally strong 2019 season, Willekes should be a high draft pick before playing on Sundays.