Decision 2012: Bennie Fowler, DeAnthony Arnett and the Candidates for Michigan State’s Next Great Wide Receiver

Heading into the 2012 season Michigan State’s offense has a lot of questions to answer. With the loss of three-time captain Kirk Cousins, running back Edwin Baker and their top three wide receivers, the Spartans must turn to a new batch of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. While Andrew Maxwell has long been the heir apparent at quarterback, the wide receiver position is as wide-open as any spot on the roster.

[caption id="attachment_522" align="alignright" width="300" caption="It's going to take a lot of winning to forget about these two."][/caption]

Last season, the Spartans relied heavily on the three-headed monster that was B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin and Keith Nichol. The three seniors were the only wide receivers with more than ten catches, in addition to being the only three to record a touchdown catch.

While the cupboard may appear to be bare in 2012, not all hope is lost. Over the past few decades, Michigan State has churned out quite a few quality receivers, giving them a legitimate (yet totally debatable) claim as the Big Ten’s “Wide Receiver U.”

From Kirk Gibson to Andre Rison to Courtney Hawkins to Plaxico Burress & Gari Scott to Herb Haygood (a personal favorite) to Charles Rogers to Matt Trannon to Devin Thomas to B.J. Cunningham, MSU has always SOMEONE step up into the lead receiver role. Hopefully this season proves no different, and with a receiver-heavy recruiting class arriving in East Lansing this fall, there are several candidates to take control of the number 1 spot.

Here’s a quick look at the top contenders:

  • Bennie Fowler

Fowler is a talented junior who showed tons of promise two seasons ago, displaying serious playmaking skills in limited time. After missing most of last season with injuries, Fowler is looking to bounce back in an expanded role in the Spartan wide receiver corps. A versatile player who scored rushing and receiving touchdowns two seasons ago (in addition to hauling in the Aaron Bates prayer known as “Mousetrap”), Fowler can be a big time player for the Spartans, provided he stays healthy.

[caption id="attachment_523" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="MSU's next big play threat?"][/caption]

  • DeAnthony Arnett

Arnett made the biggest offseason splash of any incoming wide receiver, probably due to the long wait Spartan fans had to endure while the NCAA determined his eligibility. The sophomore transferred from Tennessee to be closer to his ailing father and was granted a waiver from the NCAA permitting him to play in 2012. As a freshman at Tennessee he racked up 24 catches, 242 yards and 2 touchdowns. If Arnett can adjust to his new offense quickly, he could be in for a breakout season.

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  • Tony Lippett

Lippett has been an interesting player to follow in his short time as a Spartan. Over the course of his first two seasons (one of them his redshirt year) Lippett has seen time on both sides of the ball; contributing as both a wide receiver and cornerback. While he primarily appeared in the defensive backfield last fall, the Spartans’ lack of proven depth at wide receiver has seen him shift back to offense. Regardless of where he played last season he always seemed to be around the ball, and with a greater opportunity perhaps Lippett can emerge as a standout receiver (though I enjoyed his play at corner).

  • Keith Mumphery

A burner from Georgia, Mumphery enters his sophomore season looking to emerge as a key component of the Spartans’ offensive attack. Primarily a special teams contributor last season, Mumphery performed well in the spring and looks primed for a big 2012 campaign.

[caption id="attachment_525" align="aligncenter" width="246" caption="If it's any indication, the guy is CONSTANTLY open in NCAA 13. "][/caption]

  • Unnamed Freshman X

With the departure of their top three receivers, Michigan State’s coaching staff heavily recruited a number of receiver prospects, and the new class has several players who could potentially compete for immediate playing time. Headlining the group is Aaron Burbridge out of Farmington Hills Harrison, who was touted as the top prospect in state of Michigan last year.

Joining him are big-bodied early enrollee Kyle Kerrick, Florida speedster Macgarrett Kings Jr. and Cincinnati product Monty Madaris. In addition to the incoming freshman, redshirts Juwan Caesar and Andre Sims Jr. will also be fighting for playing time in their second season with the program. While it’s likely only one or two members of this group see significant game time, all of them have the potential to have excellent careers and contribute down the road.

If I had to guess which of these players would emerge quickest, I’d put my money on Burbridge, Caesar or Kings. Burbridge fits the Mark Dell mold (another Harrison product and Spartan alum), Kings most closely resembles Keshawn Martin (whose playmaking will be sorely missed this season, both on offense and special teams), and Caesar has the frame to be a red zone nightmare for opposing defenses.

In the end, it doesn’t matter who steps up, as long as SOMEONE does. Luckily, history has shown that it won’t be long before another Spartan wide receiver becomes a household name.

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