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5 Michigan State freshmen to watch in 2016

Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire

Mark Dantonio’s Michigan State Spartans are set to enter the 2016 season with the No. 18-ranked recruiting class in the nation, per 247Sports.

Though recruiting rankings carry little weight in East Lansing, Dantonio probably wouldn’t deny the fact that his incoming group of freshmen happens to be one of most well-rounded collections in all of college football.

And not just for his program, but overall. Ask any Power 5 coach about Michigan State’s next-in-line, and they’d say the same thing — solid, from top to bottom.

With that being said, the Spartans lost a lot on both sides of the ball. No more Connor Cook at QB or Shilique Calhoun at DE. And sure, 2016 could present a few ups-and-downs for a school looking to maintain pace with CFB heavyweights. But this freshman class shouldn’t take much time to acclimate and participate.

Josh King — 4-star WDE, Hinsdale South, Ill.

At nearly 6-foot-7 and somewhere around 245 pounds, the former Army All-American stands to be one of the Spartans’ next elite pass rushers. Not many, if any, defensive ends in the 2016 class can compare to King’s raw athleticism.

He won’t have to do it all, as the Spartans have a few other defensive linemen set to join the mix — but King should certainly jump out of the starting gate this fall.

As a unit, the Spartans have put together one of the best overall defenses during the past handful of seasons. The departure of Pat Narduzzi — who enters his second year as head coach at Pitt — was enough to cause a bit of worry in East Lansing, but Dantonio is a former defensive coordinator. With that being said, defense will always be in-fashion at Michigan State, regardless of who holds the title of defensive coordinator.

Donnie Corley — 4-star WR, Detroit MLK

If you don’t think that Donnie Corley will be one of the most electrifying freshmen in the Big Ten this year, well, adjust your perspective. The former MLK wideout has everything necessary to be a first-year sensation within an offense that’s looking for a big-play WR to compensate for the loss of superstar Aaron Burbridge.

Impressive during the spring game, Corley could end up being one of his quarterback’s favorite targets. Following the spring scrimmage, both presumed starter Tyler O’Connor and backup Damion Terry expressed a high amount of confidence in their new 6-foot-3, 185-pound aerial weapon.

Cam Chambers — 4-star WR Timber Creek, NJ

Want more receivers? Cam Chambers held his own during the spring, too. And at nearly 6-foot-2 and somewhere in the neighborhood of 205 pounds, he could provide a bigger-body threat — something that’d be an ideal complement to Corley’s speedster presence — for the Spartans this season.

“He has a really bright future,” Terry said of Chambers following the spring game, per Chris Solari of the Lansing State Journal. “Those two (Corley and Chambers) are going to be a very great dynamic duo. Just like I said about Donnie, they’re both so quiet. I know they’re high school seniors, but you can tell there just here to learn about football.”

Michigan State has enjoyed a revolving door of sorts at receiver. This year, though, could be different. No waiting. Immediate impact. Chambers and/or Corley should emerge within the first few weeks, if not sooner.

Justin Layne — 4-star WR, Cleveland Benedictine

A huge score for Dantonio out of Ohio, Justin Layne might as well be thrown into the discussion as one of Michigan State’s top five freshmen to watch in 2016. He can play both sides of the ball, if needed, and has an excellent sense of awareness/direction on the field.

At 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, he could fill in at the slot or double as an outside receiver. Again, he knows his way around the field, so it’s fair to assume that his usage will vary from package to package.

Demetric Vance — 4-star S, Detroit Cass Tech

Remember the “No Fly Zone” with Darqueze Dennard and Isaiah Lewis. What about Kurtis Drummond? Those guys set the tone, and now it’ll be on Demetric Vance — among others — to continue the Spartans’ recently spectacular run in the secondary.

Like Layne, plus a lot of high school WRs, Vance successfully played on both sides of the ball, a quality that separates really good players from the best players.

“The big thing about Demetric is how he wants to outshine the player he’s up against and that really makes the difference between Player A and Player B,” said Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher, per David Goricki of the Detroit News. “He’s a track runner that uses his speed to pull balls out of the air and close in to stop the running attack.”

Dantonio cleaned up on NSD 2016. In years past, a successful signing day meant that good things were on the way… in a couple of years.

Not this year, though. King, Corley, Chambers, Layne and Vance should each be considered as true threats as freshmen.

Follow Adam Biggers of Today’s U on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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