Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Where are former Spartans taking the field in the NFL?

September 15, 2020
<p>Then- offensive lineman Brian Allen (65) is pictured with then-Ohio State defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle after the Ohio State game on Nov. 11, 2017</p>

Then- offensive lineman Brian Allen (65) is pictured with then-Ohio State defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle after the Ohio State game on Nov. 11, 2017

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

You may not be able to watch the 2020 Michigan State football team take the field this fall, but former Spartans began taking the NFL field earlier this month. 

The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs took on the Houston Texans to kick off the 2020 season Sept. 10. The rest of the league took the field Sept. 13, filling the sports void many fans have been craving since the sports world went up in flames. In total, there are 11 former Spartans starting the season on active NFL rosters, with several more on practice squads/injured reserve.

Let’s take a look at where they are at.

Brian Allen —  Center — Los Angeles Rams

Back in mid-April, Allen became the first known active NFL player to test positive for the novel coronavirus. Five months later, Allen is looking to solidify himself on the Rams’ offensive line.

After a successful four-year run at Michigan State from 2014-17, the Rams scooped up Allen in the fourth round of the 2018 Draft. Across two years in the league, Allen has played in 22 games, earning nine starts. The Rams Unofficial Depth Chart lists Allen as the backup center to start this season, behind Austin Blythe. His younger brother, Matt Allen is currently a senior offensive lineman for the Spartans.

Le’Veon Bell —  Running Back —  New York Jets

Entering his second year with the Jets, Bell will look to regain his star form from his days with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He wasn’t all that bad last year, though, rushing for 789 yards and picking up another 461 yards receiving for a total of 1,250 yards. 

Before he sat out the entire 2018 season due to contract disputes, Bell collected 1,884 and 1,946 total yards in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Which version of Bell will show up this season?

Shilique Calhoun —  Linebacker —  New England Patriots

After a disappointing first three seasons for the Oakland Raiders, Calhoun is trying to find his footing as he enters year two with New England. 

Calhoun collected 27 sacks from 2012-15 wearing the green and white, leading to him being selected in the third round by Oakland in 2016. This is going to be a prove-it year for Calhoun; With just 0.5 sacks during his four-year career in the NFL, his time to solidify himself is running out

Jack Conklin —  Offensive Tackle —  Cleveland Browns

Conklin cashed in this offseason, inking a new three-year, $42 million deal with the Browns. Prior to that, he spent the past four seasons with the Tennessee Titans after they made him the eighth overall pick in 2016. Now regarded as one of the best tackles in the game, he will be tasked with protecting Baker Mayfield in a crucial season for Cleveland.

Kirk Cousins —  Quarterback —  Minnesota Vikings

Cousins lost his former No. 11 wideout, Stefon Diggs, to the Bills this offseason. Now, with Adam Thielen and rookie Justin Jefferson as his go-to guys, Cousins will look to build on last season, where he finally picked up his first career playoff win. The NFC North seems to be up for grabs this year, and Cousins will either be the catalyst that sends the Vikings on a run or the reason his team goes 8-8.

Darqueze Dennard —  Cornerback —  Atlanta Falcons

After spending the last six seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, Dennard will suit up for the Falcons this season. The former first round pick has just three interceptions since joining the league and will start the season as a backup in Atlanta.

William Gholston —  Defensive End — Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Gholston has been a staple on the Tampa Bay defensive line since 2013, collecting 272 tackles and 12 sacks. He’s also been very durable, playing in all 16 games for the Bucs the past two seasons and no less than 12 since he entered the league seven years ago.

Brian Hoyer —  Quarterback —  New England Patriots

The longest tenured player on the list, Hoyer enters year 12 in the NFL and year six with the Patriots. Hoyer is a journeyman, starting his career in New England, followed by stops in Arizona, Cleveland, Houston, Chicago, San Francisco and Indianapolis. He’s had his chances to start over the years, and some thought he might get a shot to start this season for the Patriots once Tom Brady left for Tampa Bay. However, those rumors were put to bed once the Pats signed former league MVP Cam Newton in July.

Justin Layne —  Cornerback —  Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers drafted Layne in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and he saw action in 10 games during his rookie season. Looking to make a leap in year two, Layne starts the season as a backup on the Steelers Unofficial Depth Chart.

Josiah Scott —  Cornerback —  Jacksonville Jaguars

Scott was selected in the fourth round by the Jaguars in last April’s virtual NFL Draft. After a three-year career at MSU that included six interceptions, Scott will hope to get his feet wet in the NFL this season on a bad Jaguars team.

Khari Willis —  Safety —  Indianapolis Colts

Willis had a solid rookie season for the Colts in 2019, starting nine games and collecting 71 tackles. His production in year one leads him to be the starting strong safety entering this season. He figures to be a key piece of the Colts' defense for years to come.

Former Spartans on Practice Squads (PS)/Injured Reserve (IR)

CB Trae Waynes —  Cincinnati Bengals — IR

DT Joel Heath —  Denver Broncos —  Opt-out (COVID-19)

DE Kenny Willekes —  Minnesota Vikings —  IR

LB Joe Bachie —  New Orleans Saints —  PS

LB Andrew Dowell —  New Orleans Saints —  PS

WR Bennie Fowler —  New Orleans Saints —  PS

DT Raequan Williams —  Philadelphia Eagles —  PS

This article is part of our Living a Remote Life print edition. View the entire issue here.


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