“Nobody’s safe right now. We don’t have a B.J. Cunningham, a Keshawn Martin, that’s been established.” –MSU wide receivers coach Terry Samuel (Sept. 5, 2012)
As the search for a big play wide receiver continues, Michigan State turned to some new options against Central Michigan. Some very new options.
True freshmen Aaron Burbridge and Macgarrett Kings saw the field for the first time in the Spartans’ 41-7 win and, barring injury, no longer will redshirt this year.
Each had two fourth-quarter receptions, but more importantly, made people miss after the catch. Message received.
Behind the clear-cut number one receiver Bennie Fowler, the competition remains open. But among a bevy of options such as Tony Lippett, DeAnthony Arnett, Keith Mumphery, Andre Sims Jr. and Jeremy Langford, some things are starting to take shape.
Firstly, Langford appears headed back to running back in anticipation that Le’Veon Bell leaves early and Langford will be needed there next season. Secondly, it seems probable that Lippett could move back to cornerback next season as Johnny Adams graduates and with the possibility that Darqueze Dennard leaves early. Neither of those things is set in stone, but seem possible.
This much is certain: The Spartans miss the abilities of Keshawn Martin greatly, maybe moreso than any other offensive player from last season.
That is where Burbridge and Kings step in.
Burbridge brings a downfield threat that the Spartans need to open up the playbook and become a true two-dimensional offense. How good is the freshman? Well, he missed time in fall camp with a knee injury and still is on the field this early in his career. The top-rated player from the state of Michigan in the class of 2012 had two receptions for 14 yards.
Kings is the closest thing to Martin on the Michigan State roster, he is a smaller wide receiver with a lot of speed. His first reception came on a bubble screen and he made a man miss with a nifty spin move for a gain of 10 yards. His second reception came on a quick pass from Connor Cook, where he again made a man miss and gained 8 yards.
All four receptions were on short passes — just getting the young receivers used to being on the field and involved — but the speed and big play ability is what is getting them chances. And those chances will continue to come for the players now that their redshirts have been burned.
“We ran some hitches to get them the ball to see if they could make plays and they did,” Mark Dantonio said. “… We’re not going to hold anybody back if they can help us. They (Burbridge and Kings) knew the situation and we put them in there. Now we’ll continue to work them in there.”
While the battles at wide receiver are far from settled — an eight-man race for snaps still prevalant — Burbridge and Kings should factor greatly into the plans of the coaching staff moving forward.