The newest crop of college football players are starting to arrive on campuses all over the country. Freshmen and transfers will make their first impressions at summer classes and workouts with their new, veteran teammates in the next couple of weeks. Most will be hoping to lay the groundwork for an immediate impact this season. This week on the Big Ten blog, we’ll be identifying the player from each of the league’s teams that has the best chance to become a well-known name by the end of the fall. Michigan State is up next.
Michigan State top newcomer: DT Kevin Williams
Michigan State’s defensive line has been one of the cornerstones of the program’s recent success. This year on the interior, former starter Joel Heath graduated, Damon Knox decided not to return for a sixth season of eligibility, Craig Evans left the team during spring practice and All-America candidate Malik McDowell has been preparing to spend more time at the defensive end position. The Spartans needed some help at defensive tackle, and they found it with Nebraska transfer Kevin Williams.
The northwest Ohio native started his college career at Nebraska six years ago. He missed the 2011 and 2013 seasons with health issues and was granted a sixth year of eligibility this winter. In May, he decided to use his last year in East Lansing.
Williams played 23 games in an injury-riddled career at Nebraska, where he collected 27 tackles and 10 tackles for loss. While his stats don’t match some of the production the Spartans lose in the middle of the line this season, head coach Mark Dantonio expects Williams' experience to be a major asset for a group that lost three of its four starters at the end of last season's playoff run.
"Kevin played three years for them," Dantonio said earlier this month. "He started on and off throughout his career there. He’s a guy that understands how to play a 3-technique, how to play a 1. He’s very firm at the point of attack and I think he will be an immediate contributor to our program.”
Williams provides a welcome addition to a weak spot on defense much like the influx of freshman wide receivers will provide on offense. Four-star prospects Justin Layne and Trishton Jackson join early enrollees Donnie Corley and Cam Chambers on campus this summer. Dantonio has said since January that he expects a least a couple of guys from that crew to make early contributions as freshmen.
Corley drew rave reviews during the spring season and looks to be the first rookie out of the blocks at receiver. However, it’s hard to consider him a newcomer after a full semester on campus during which he became a frequently talked-about fixture in the Spartans' offense. For that reason -- and because of the potential impact he could have on what should once again be a stout front seven -- Williams gets the nod for Michigan State’s top newcomer.