Heading into the 2017 season, Michigan State is very young, meaning a lot of freshman and sophomores will get the opportunity to play. MSU’s 2017 recruiting class was ranked 35th nationally and sixth in the Big Ten per 247Sports. The class has a few gems, but who will shine as a freshman? Max Lapthorne, Grant Essenmacher and I take a look at potential freshman that could make an impact.
Max Lapthorne: The Bullough family has long been synonymous with defense at Michigan State, but another family may be taking the reins in 2017 — the Panasiuks.
True freshman defensive end Jacub Panasiuk is my pick to be this year’s impact newcomer for the Spartans as he joins his brother, sophomore Mike Panasiuk, along the defensive line. At an imposing 6-foot-4, 294 pounds, Mike made a name for himself as a true freshman last year filling in admirably along a depleted front line. His best game came in MSU’s near-upset of Ohio State in which he had seven tackles and a half-sack.
As for Jacub, he is a 6-foot-3, 266-pound, 3-star recruit — per 247 Sports — who will have plenty of opportunities for playing time at defensive end, where the Spartans lack talent and experience. He earned All-State honors in the uber-competitive 8A Class of the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association for his play at Lake Park West High School. And despite his bulky frame, Jacub played all over the field in high school, including H-back, tight end and punter, so he should have the athleticism necessary to become a successful edge rusher.
Having his brother on campus should help Jacub acclimate to his new surroundings quickly this fall, and given Mike’s strong showing as a true freshman last year, it’s clear the Panasiuks can handle pressure. So watch out for Jacub to follow in his brother’s footsteps and make a Panasiuk-sized impact as a freshman.
Grant Essenmacher: With such a young team Michigan State could have a number of freshman contributing early. In fact, at positions like defensive line and defensive back, where depth is thin, they could have a couple even start right away. However, I look to the offense at a legacy recruit for my impact newcomer. Hunter Rison, like his father, is a receiver that could make a big impact for the Spartans.
Rison was mentioned by coach Mark Dantonio at MSU media day as a freshman who could play a lot early. He is a flat out playmaker. MSU could look to use him all over the field where they can get the ball in his hands. Look for him possibly returning punts/kicks, on end arounds which are a staple in the Spartan offense, as well as catching passes from Brian Lewerke.
Receiver is a position that is wide open. MSU doesn’t have many returning that played a big role last year, so many sophomores and freshmen will see playing time which bodes well for Rison. Look for Hunter to become the next Rison household name for Spartan fans.
Zach Manning: Rison and Panasiuk are good options, but if Michigan State wants to have any chance against top caliber teams this year, they will need better play from the secondary. This guy was in our breakout defensive player article a week ago, but it’s hard to pass him up in this case.
Josiah Scott has received nothing but praise from the Spartan coaching staff in his short time in East Lansing. Scott has impressed the coaching staff enough to work his way into a projected starting role. The 5-10, 173 pound true freshman might not be the biggest player, but he more than makes up for it with his speed and ball hawk abilities.
Scott balled out in the Green and White scrimmage earlier this year, making a game high eight tackles and securing an interception. Scott will line up alongside Justin Layne, who transitioned from receiver to corner last year. The MSU secondary has a lot to learn, but Scott should come in and provide a huge spark to a unit that was lackluster most of last year.
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