I grew up in the day when the Michigan State Spartans had some special players. George Webster was a linebacker out of Anderson, South Carolina that went north to play at Michigan State because of racism in the Old South. He was joined by stars like Bubba Smith from Beaumont, Texas and many other young black stars from the south that were not welcome at home.
The Spartans have always been a team that I have followed from at least a distance because of those stars. But, it wasn’t just those guys, there were other stars like Kirk Gibson and Percy Snow in more recent times. Even more recently were stars like Kirk Cousins and Connor Cook, plus the 2013 defense and the No Fly Zone.
The Michigan State Spartans between 2013 and 2015 had a record of 37-5, but their playoff loss to
Alabama may have crushed them mentally. The Spartans fell apart last season winning only 3 games. A 38-0 beating can do plenty to destroy your self confidence.
One player that was never intimidated by the Alabama defense and did his job more than adequately in that game was Spartan left tackle Jack Conklin. Some people had other tackles rated as the highest in the country, but I had Conklin as my top tackle. The Tennessee Titans confirmed my opinion by taking Jack Conklin with the 8th pick of the 2016 NFL Draft. However, left tackle Ronnie Stanley was taken two slots ahead of Conklin with the 6th pick by the Baltimore Ravens. I had no problem with that because I had Stanley rated second. Either player was a great choice
Conklin moved right into the starting lineup at Tennessee and again proved his value.
Not bad for a guy that was completely unrated when he came out of high school and signed with Michigan State. Conklin was not even a 2 star in the ESPN rankings. The state of Michigan is not known as a top football producing state. Outside of Detroit, there is generally limited talent dispersed throughout the state. Michigan State found Jack Conklin in Plainwell, Michigan.
Plainwell is a tiny Michigan city of about 4,000 people that is known as the Island City. It’s called that because to enter Plainwell from any direction, you supposedly have to cross the Kalamazoo River. It’s located between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. Western Michigan University is located just 10 miles away in Kalamazoo, but Michigan State offered and Conklin probably wanted to test himself in the Big 10 Conference because he had the opportunity.
Jack Conklin redshirted his freshman season and showed what he could do on the scout team. As a redshirt freshman, he started 13 out of 14 games in that 2013 season when the Spartans had the top
defense in the country and finished the season with a 13-1 record and won the Big 10 championship and the Rose Bowl. He started 3 games at right tackle and 10 over on the left side and it was clearly evident that he was going to be a great one.
The following season, the sophomore Conklin was the man at left tackle. He only gave up 2.5 quarterback sacks and scored over 110 knockdowns.
Conklin was 6-6, 325 with great quickness and athletic ability. Obviously, he had those feet.
The 2015 Michigan State team was not as good as the previous two seasons and although they did win the Big 10 championship after upsetting Ohio State, they were devastated by their loss to Alabama in their first playoff berth. The bright spot had been Conklin as I already wrote. After the loss, the All American Left Tackle declared for the NFL Draft and was taking with the 8th pick.
Please read carefully, because I don’t want to be misunderstood.
I am not comparing redshirt sophomore Cole Chewins to Jack Conklin as far as talent. However, what I am comparing is their humble beginnings. Like Conklin, Chewins was also unrated coming out of high school from a small town. Chewin’s home town is even smaller with about 800 people. The tiny village of Clarkston and the surrounding area has actually produced a lot of famous people like Valerie Bertinelli, Kid Rock, Henry Ford, and former baseball player Steve Howe to name a few.
Even though Cole Chewins is 6-8, 285 there was no interest in him coming out of high school by any majors. He as not rated at all, but that did not discourage him from walking on at Michigan State in 2015. After being with the team for just a few months, the giant Chewins was awarded a scholarship in January of 2016.
Also like Conklin, Chewins redshirted as a freshman in 2015. Also like Conklin, Chewins was on the scout teams and earned awards as a scout team member.
As a redshirt freshman in the Spartans’ disastrous 2016 season, Chewins played a lot and actually
moved into the starting lineup in the last 3 games.
This season, from the beginning of the year Cole Chewins was firmly entrenched as a starter at left tackle for the Spartans. At 6-8, 285, Chewins has a lot of work to do yet. But, he has the opportunity to be an outstanding left tackle at Michigan State.
He is not on the level of Jack Conklin yet, and he may never be. But, if he works his tail off, he has a shot at stardom and possibly making it to the next level. He has all of this season and the following 2 to develop. Much of Michigan State’s problems a year ago can directly be traced to their offensive line and the shuffling around. Now, they have a potentially very good one in Cole Chewins and in right tackle Luke Campbell. Center Brian Allen is the second of three Allen brothers and he’s a steady leader up front. Guards Tyler Higby and David Beedle are consistent. With quarterback Brian Lewarke being compared to a young Kirk Cousins and with more explosive wide receivers and three solid running backs, the offense should be much better in 2017.
Keep an eye on Michigan State’s number 61 Cole Chewins, he’s hard to miss at 6 foot 8 inches.
High school recruits in the state of Michigan might want to look at Michigan State if they are unranked by the recruiting services. Just ask Jack Conklin and Cole Chewins.