If I were writing this article a year ago, there wouldn’t be many nice things to say about the Michigan State receiving corps. In 2012, the receivers combined to drop an astonishing 66 passes and were a big reason why the offense never got on track.
Oh how things have changed.
The Spartan pass catchers enjoyed a resurgent 2013 season, and Connor Cook now has a plethora of talented wideouts to throw to. Tony Lippett led the Spartans with 44 receptions last year, just one ahead of Macgarrett Kings Jr., and Bennie Fowler led the team with 622 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns.
Fowler is the only wide receiver not returning to the MSU football team next season, so Cook will have almost all of his weapons back. Cook doesn’t seem to have picked a favorite receiver so he will probably spread the ball around again next year. However, there are a few Michigan State receivers that have the ability to become go-to options for Connor Cook. I’ll take a look at a few of them and predict which one has the best chance to become the Brandon Marshall to Connor Cook’s Jay Cutler.
MACGARRETT KINGS JR.
Macgarrett Kings Jr. was probably the biggest surprise of the Michigan State wide receivers in 2013. Kings went from catching just four passes his freshman year to nearly leading the team in that category with 43 in 2013.
Kings had a lot of his success last year out of the slot. Cook looked to him on slants and shallow crossing routes in a lot of crucial situations, and Kings always seemed to find a way to get open. The ability to find holes in the secondary is crucial, and Kings seems to have that down.
Another reason that Macgarrett Kings Jr. has the chance to become the number one receiver is his ability to run after the catch. King’s speed and elusiveness gives him the chance to turn a six yard reception into a 60 yard reception in the blink of an eye. He even worked his way into punt returning duties last season for that very reason.
Macgarrett Kings Jr. has proven to be a reliable and explosive weapon as a slot receiver. He doesn’t have the height of a prototypical number one receiver, but he has the talent to become Cook’s go-to option.
Burbridge was supposed to redshirt in 2012, but Mark Dantonio was so desperate to find someone who could catch the ball he decided to play him about halfway through the season. Burbridge was impressive for much of that year, catching 19 passes for 274 yards in his first three games.
Going into 2013 he looked like he would be the team’s best receiver, even being named to the preseason Biletnikoff Award watch list, which goes to the best receiver in the country. Unfortunately 2013 didn’t go as planned for Burbridge as he caught just 22 passes for 194 yards.
Despite a lack of production last season, Burbridge still possesses all the skills to become the Spartans’ number one wideout. He has elite speed, which makes him a legit threat on the outside and his hands are up there with Lippett for the best on the team.
If Burbridge can mature this offseason and develop more consistency the sky is the limit for him.
The team’s leading receiver in 2013, Lippett was a reliable target for Cook all season long. If there’s one receiver that Cook seemed to trust the most last season it was Lippett. Whether it was a crucial third down conversion in the B1G Championship Game or the go-ahead score in the Rose Bowl, Lippett was always the go-to guy in crunch time.
Lippett’s 6-foot-3 frame allows him to make plays on the outside that some of MSU’s other receivers can’t make, which will be even more crucial in 2014 with the departure of Bennie Fowler.
Also, coaches and players have said publicly that Lippett has the best hands of anyone on the team, which explains why Cook has so much confidence in him in crucial situations.
Lippett’s consistency gives him the chance to be Connor Cook’s number one option, but his lack of big-play explosiveness could hurt him.
Macgarrett Kings Jr. is both reliable and explosive, which makes him my pick to become the number one receiver for Michigan State in 2014. If he can build off of his 2013 campaign, he could become a lethal weapon for the Spartan’s offense next season.