Taking the next step
Football reporter breaks down early departures of Le’Veon Bell, William Gholston, Dion Sims
Season highlights: Bell led the nation in carries and his 1,793 rushing yards are the second-highest single-season total in MSU history.
Legacy: Bell will be remembered as one of the most productive running backs in MSU history, as well as an overachiever that defied the odds. An unheralded, two-star recruit, Bell climbed the depth chart to make an impact every season at MSU.
Right time to leave?: Yes. Although head coach Mark Dantonio made a compelling case for him to stay, Bell’s draft stock will never be higher. With the short shelf life of an NFL running back, Bell couldn’t take the pounding of another Big Ten season.
Impact of the departure: Huge. Bell was the only reliable player on an inconsistent offense and, was depended on more than anyone else. Dantonio has said someone always has been able to step in and be a productive running back since he arrived at MSU, but no one will create a bigger void
Season highlights: Gholston was a second-team All-Big Ten selection by the media for a second consecutive season after leading MSU in tackles for a loss, sacks and pass breakups.
Legacy: Gholston changed the face of MSU football before he even stepped on the field, when he gave his commitment to the Spartans in high school, providing Dantonio his highest rated recruit to date and helping to legitimize the Spartans’ head coach in the early part of his MSU career. Dantonio has often credited him for taking a chance on him.
Right time to leave?: No. Gholston’s physical tools are numerous, but he struggled to perform at a high level on a consistent basis. A senior season could have helped him harness his skills.
Impact of the departure: Moderate. Gholston was the best defensive lineman MSU had by far, but the defensive line is one of MSU’s biggest positions of depth and MSU should have numerous players to make up for his loss.
Season highlights: Sims set career highs in receptions and receiving yards this season and his 36 catches rank as the third-highest total by a Spartan tight end in program history. Twenty-nine of his 36 catches resulted in either a first down or a touchdown.
Legacy: Sims will leave many wondering what might have been, because of his natural playmaking ability and mismatch potential, but had frequent battles with injuries and off the field issues.
Right time to leave?: Yes. Due to Sims’ frequent injuries, returning for another season and risking being labeled “injury-prone,” was too big of a chance for him to take. He could be an extremely productive player at the next level if he’s able to stay healthy.
Impact of the departure: Huge. Sims’ decision to forego his senior season nearly has as big of an impact as Bell’s. With the quarterback position in doubt heading into next season, a dependable, big target such as Sims would have made a big difference.