R.J. Shelton

Connor Cook sings praises of new crop of Michigan State receivers

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Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook may be losing a few key targets from last season, but the veteran starting quarterback is getting a jump on speaking highly of his new go-to receivers in 2015.

Cook enters this spring looking to build chemistry with some new starting wide receivers. Michigan State loses its top two receivers from 2014, Tony Lippett (1,198 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns) and Keith Mumphery (495 yards, 3 touchdowns). This is the nature of the college game, of course, with players only able to stick around for so long before moving on in one capacity or another. Cook, preparing for his third season as the starting quarterback for the Spartans, knows there will be others ready to compete for an opportunity to start and play a key role in the Michigan State offense in 2015.

“Obviously losing [Tony Lippett] and [Keith Mumphery] are big losses, but we have some other (rising) senior leaders who are stepping up in Macgarrett Kings, Aaron Burbridge and AJ Troup, and then younger guys like R.J. Shelton, Matt Macksood and Tres Barksdale,” Cook said, as transcribed by MLive.com.

Kings is Michigan State’s top returning receiver with 404 yards and a touchdown last season. Burbridge caught 29 passes for 358 yards and a touchdown. Troup added 113 yards and two touchdowns as a junior. Shelton had 173 yards and two touchdowns in his sophomore season.Barksdale appeared in seven games and contributed two catches for 16 yards. Macksood, awarded a scholarship last spring. He appeared in seven games for Michigan State last season but not record any stats.

Ohio State continues to be the team to beat in the Big Ten, but Michigan State is not likely to be out of the running even after losing defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi to a head coaching job at Pittsburgh. With Cook in command of the offense, he will have solid protection from the offensive line. If the Spartans are to thrive and challenge Ohio State, Cook will have to get on track with his receivers and avoid shaky play as he experienced at times last season.

DUI was cause for Michigan State receiver’s spring suspension

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Michigan State wide receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr. was suspended from team activities in the spring for a violation of teams rules. Now, according to court documents obtained by MLive.com, the cause for the suspension is known; DUI.

According to the information obtained in the court records, Kings Jr. was arrested and charged for driving under the influence on April 6 with a blood alcohol content above .17. A sentencing was later given in July with 13 months probation and a $750 fine for pleading guilty to a misdemeanor. A little more than a week after the arrest, Michigan State suspended Kings Jr..

Kings did not practice during the spring due to the suspension from the team. That allowed head coach Mark Dantonio to give other players some more reps, including DeAnthony Arnett and R.J. Shelton. The two players needed the extra snaps after combining for just four receptions in 2013 between them. Kings was Michigan State’s second leading receiver in 2013. He was reinstated prior to the opening of fall camp.

There is no word on whether or not he will miss any playing time during the season.

Spartans open playbook and Cook tosses late TD for MSU spring win

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Connor Cook led his team to a victory in Michigan State’s spring game Saturday in East Lansing. A short touchdown pass to tight end Josiah Price with 27 seconds left broke a tie and gave the White team a 20-13 win over the Green team. It was the first time the starting quarterback for the Spartans and defending Big Ten champions won a spring game, according to MLive.com.

A reported total of 35,000 Michigan State fans– head coach Mark Dantonio wanted 50,000 — turned out to watch Cook complete 11 of 21 pass attempts for 159 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the final spring practice. Tyler O’Connor led the Green team by completing 11 of 20 pass attempts for 125 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted twice. Damion Terry, the star freshman quarterback with great potential, provided one of the highlights of the day when he scored a touchdown on his first play from scrimmage. Terry took a handoff from Cook and rushed 23 yards for a touchdown behind some good blocking.

The Spartans were not afraid to pull out some tricks in the spring game, perhaps an indication the offense may be looking to open things up a little more this season. Eary on R.J. Shelton took a sweep from O’Connor but passed back to a wide-open O’Connor on the left side of the field. O’Connor then tossed a 29-yard completion to Tony Lippett to complete the play. The tone for an offense looking to spread things out in the fall and avoid a slow start may have been set in the process.

Michigan State suspends second-leading receiver for violation of team rules

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Michigan State has suspended wide receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr. for a violation of team rules according to head coach Mark Dantonio. King will miss the rest of the spring practice season for the defending Big Ten champions, but he is expected to return to the Spartans in the fall.

According to MLive.com, Kings has not practiced all spring for the Spartan. This is just now coming out because Michigan State has a media policy that prohibit media covering the team from reporting what is witnessed in open sessions during practices. Because he has been inactive this spring, Dantonio says DeAnthony Arnett and R.J. Shelton have taken advantage of the extra snaps and each could be making a push to move up the depth chart at King’s expense. The two receivers combined for four catches and 13 yards in 2013.

Kings is the second-leading wide receiver returning to the Spartans in 2014. Last season he accounted for 42 catches for 509 yards and three touchdowns. He also has played a role on special teams for Michigan State, returning 20 punts for 206 yards in 2013.

Michigan State’s spring practices will conclude with a spring game on April 26.

Back to the drawing board for Michigan State offense

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It was a frustrating afternoon for the Michigan State Spartans in South Bend. Multiple pass interference penalties helped keep drives alive for Notre Dame and the lone turnover of the game was cashed in by the Irish for a game-winning touchdown. Notre Dame picked up their second straight win against a Big Ten opponent, winning Saturday by a score of 17-13.

As expected heading in to the game, the defenses for both teams led the way against offenses lacking much punch early on this season. Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees completed just 14-of-34 pass attempts for 142 yards and a late first half touchdown. The running game also struggled mightily against the Spartans, with just 73 yards on the ground. Michigan State’s offense was worse, with all three quarterback options getting some playing time. Connor Cook got the start for the Spartans and completed half of his passes for 135 yards and a touchdown. R.J. Shelton came in and threw one pass, but it was intercepted at the Notre Dame 19-yard line by Matthias Farley. Farley’s pick set up Notre Dame to score a touchdown five plays later when Cam McDaniel rushing seven yards for the score. With the game on the line, Mark Dantonio called on his fifth-year senior Andrew Maxwell to come off the sideline and lead a game-winning drive. Maxwell went 0-for-3 and ran out of bounds on a 4th and 20 play to turnover the football on downs.

If we learned one thing from this game, it is that the Spartans still have some serious concerns about their offense, starting at quarterback. Could we see Damion Terry once again get some reps in practice and maybe even a shot to lead this offense?

Notre Dame has a big stretch of games coming up in the next few weeks. Oklahoma visits Notre Dame Stadium next Saturday and Arizona State meets the Irish in Arlington the following week. Neither of those teams have the same questions about their quarterbacks or their offense, so Notre Dame will be tested.

This game marked the first time since 2001 that neither team managed to score at least 20 points in a game. Michigan State won that game, 17-10 in South Bend.