Each week heading into the Spring Game for MSU Football, The State News will be taking a look at each position group on Mel Tucker's roster as the Spartans prepare for their second season under the Tucker regime. In this edition, Eli McKown dives into which pass catchers at wide receiver and tight ends will make a difference.
Michigan State football has a lot of developing units on it’s team, but the wide receivers and tight ends are one position that could be considered one of the better units in the Big Ten this season with its returning production and young guys with potential.
Despite not being a unit that will drastically impact offensive production versus the quarterback or offensive line position, this experienced group of pass catchers will be an incredible asset for a developing offense.
“I think it helps us tremendously,” Michigan State offensive coordinator Jay Johnson said. “I really like our position there and the way those guys have come along with Coach Hawk (Courtney Hawkins) has been good, that's gonna be huge with those guys there. I think it would definitely benefit them because those guys are at a new level, they understand things better.”
Here’s an outlook for the Spartans’ pass catchers.
Jayden Reed, junior, 1204 receiving yards, 407 with MSU
Reed will be the Spartans’ wide receiver one next season … literally. With No. 1 on his back for the Spartans, Reed will be the number one target for whoever starts at quarterback next season.
Despite being the top receiver for Michigan State last season, Reed disappeared at times as defenses keyed in on him throughout the year. To take the next step and be considered among the best in the Big Ten, Reed will need to become a consistent threat for the Spartans.
But he came up big in big games at times and proved why he was an All-Conference type at Western Michigan.
Despite being looked at as receiver number two, Nailor actually gained more yards than Reed on less catches with his deep threat ability last season. With Michigan State’s focus on offense last season on taking shots downfield, his blazing speed was a valuable asset for a struggling offense last season.
Nailor has the potential to flash this fall and proved that he can play out of the slot too, but health can be a concern as he missed time his freshman and sophomore season before playing all seven games last season.
White burst onto the scene as a freshman against rival Michigan, catching eight passes for 196 yards and a touchdown, but failed to do much else due to injury. Despite being a one-hit wonder in his first season, White flashed undeniable talent against the Wolverines, which leads me to believe that he’s looked at as wide receiver three as of now.
Eyes will be on him this upcoming season after that performance, but he’ll need to remain healthy to be able to prove he can continue performances like that.
The tight end position is an important one for the Spartans as they are often called the “MVP” of the offense by the staff. Gillison is the best pass catcher of the group and brings the most experience for a relatively young group.
Gillison broke out in the Spartans’ last bowl game against Wake Forest with four catches for 88 yards as a freshman, but struggled to get consistent opportunities last season. A former four-star recruit by 24/7Sports, that talent can be a matchup problem for defenses if he can take the next step this upcoming season.
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Mosley had three starts and was the initial starter for MSU last season before suffering an injury in the first game against Rutgers and started the final two games of the season. Having seven catches for 71 yards last season, Hayes has shown his potential when the targets come his way. Hayes will certainly be a part of the Spartans’ offense this season, but I gave White the nod for the potential upside. Still, don’t be shocked if he starts week one.
Missing all of last season due to injury, many may have forgotten about Hayes. Hayes started two games in 2019 and brings experience and leadership to the wide receiver unit for MSU. Expect Hayes to get some time and snaps this season, but not as a starter unless there are injuries.
Lockett is the young guy of the receiving core along with White and has undeniable talent as he was ranked the number three overall player in the state of Minnesota behind only Wisconsin linebacker Kaden Johnson and Gonzaga star guard Jalen Suggs according to 24/7Sports. After receiving a few snaps last year, Lockett will likely garner some more with his talent.
Hunt made the intriguing move from punter to tight end last season, but it paid off as he played a lot of snaps for the Spartans including being one of only two Spartans to get a rushing touchdown last season. A do it all type of guy, Hunt will be on the field at some point this upcoming season.
The only true freshman on this list, Allen has received a lot of praise from the coaching staff already whether it has been in the weight room or as a leader as some on the staff have pointed out.
Glad @Spartan_Vision was able to highlight a “Keepin’ It Real” session with our freshmen. We touch on “Flat Leadership” here, a major part of our culture. S/O to @A_Henderson31 for starting this weekly meeting during my freshman year in 2011. Been going strong ever since! pic.twitter.com/05gSQoL3Gt