EAST LANSING, Mich. — Since the departure of wideouts B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin, and Keith Nichol in 2011, the Michigan State Spartans have spent the past 12 months trying to find at least one player to fill the playmaker void at wide receiver.
Inconsistencies from the current receiving corps dating back to last season — 66 drops in 2012 — has opened the door for guys that many thought weren’t ready to produce quite yet.
One of those guys that’s taken full advantage of his opportunity is sophomore Macgarrett Kings Jr.
In the Spartans 55-17 routing of Youngstown State on Saturday, Kings did exactly what this offense has desperately needed, and that’s make plays.
The 5-foot-10, 186-pound receiver had a 10-yard reception on the Spartans first third down of the game that led to a Jeremy Langford 3-yard touchdown run two plays later. On the Spartans second drive, Kings had a 20-yard reception that helped set up MSU’s second touchdown, and on the third drive, he had a 7-yard catch that led to the Spartans third straight touchdown.
It was evident early on that newly promoted quarterback Connor Cook was confident in throwing to Kings — even connecting him a 24-yard touchdown pass in traffic before halftime — and that confidence that Cook and the coaches have shown in the receiver has been visible in his play over the past two weeks.
“I continue to say that Macgarrett Kings, Jr. had a great fall camp,” Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said after Saturday’s victory. “He catches everything. His confidence is very high right now and that’s what you do. You put a premium on confidence when you’re a skill player, whether that’s the quarterback, tailback, or wide out. When your confidence is high, you can catch it all.”
Kings finished the game with career highs in catches (4) and yards (61) to go along with his touchdown, and even showed diversity with an impressive punt return in the fourth quarter.
Versatility is something that the Spartans have lacked since the departure of Martin, and with Kings ability to catch, run, and return, his production and excitement could be pivotal for an offense that is yet to find its identity.
“We put him back there for punts today and he responded with a 15-yard return, so that’s something we have been wanting to do as well,” Dantonio said. “He’s a playmaker. We’ve got to get him the ball and touches to see how he responds.”
Last season, Kings appeared in eight games and had four catches for 25 yards. This year, Kings has started the past two game for Michigan State, and he currently is leading the receivers in yards (99) and is tied for the lead with catches (8) and touchdowns (1) through three games.
The lack of improvement from the receiving corps from last year to this year has been the most intriguing facet from this group thus far in the season. However, Kings, despite not feeling prepared to fully produce until this year, has been waiting for a game like the one he had since he step foot on campus, truly showing his progression from his freshman to sophomore season.
“My freshman year, I thought I could come in and do what I did today, but the growth wasn’t there,” Kings said. “I was still young. I can honestly admit that I was young and I didn’t really know my plays, I knew enough plays to play, but I didn’t know it like coach Sam (wide receivers coach Terrence Samuel) wanted me to know it. So after today, I feel very accomplished.”