EAST LANSING - Michigan State will honor its graduating players on Senior Day, Saturday at Spartan Stadium. But will three star juniors be among those who will be wearing green and white for the last time when the Spartans face Northwestern at noon?
Tight end Dion Sims, Running back Le'Veon Bell and defensive end William Gholston are projected as first-day selections by ESPN for this year's NFL Draft.
Bell is rated as the No. 2 RB in the draft, regardless of class, by ESPN, which projects him as a late second rounder.
Gholston, the No. 10 DE on ESPN's board, and Sims, the No. 4 tight end, are projected as third-round draft picks.
It's unclear whether NFL general managers agree with ESPN's projections, but the MSU players, for now, say they aren't giving those rankings much thought.
"Not yet, not right now anyway," Bell said. "At the end of the season I might take a look at it, but not right now.
"If the opportunity is there, I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm going to do what's best for my family."
What about being ranked comfortably among the top five running back prospects if he chooses to come out this year?
"That would let me know that the hard work and dedication that I've put in to this point has paid off," he said. "It would be a great compliment to actually get drafted.
"But I haven't really paid attention to it. I'm not buying into it."
Bell leads the Big Ten in rushing at 1,249 yards and is No. 9 in the country in rushing yards per game at 124.90. He is second in the nation in rushing attempts.
"There are always things you can work on," Bell said. "I could easily get stronger. I could get a lot more smarter, get better in pass protection, faster. There are a lot of things that I could improve on. I just want to get better and I'm not looking into it from this year to next year, I just want to take it one week at a time, one day at a time, and whatever comes happens."
Gholston entered the season regarded as MSU's best NFL prospect. But he is currently listed as a stock-on-the-decline player by NFLdraftscout.com, which is not officially affiliated with the NFL.
"I don't think about it (turning pro early) at all," Gholston said. "In one ear and out the other ear; that doesn't matter to me right now. I focus on the seniors."
There is plenty of reason to do that. At 5-5, Michigan State needs one victory to extend its streak of five straight bowl seasons to six, and with it a chance to salvage a sense of accomplishment in a mostly disappointing season.
Sims was Michigan State's leading receiver and one of the hottest tight ends in the country when he was lost to an ankle injury on Oct. 6 at Indiana. Sims sat out one game and was limited in the next two.
He has fallen to No. 5 on MSU's receptions list with 27 catches, but anticipates feeling good on Saturday.
"My foot is about 100 percent now," he said. "I feel like I'm back to the old. The week off was a great time to hang out with the family and get my legs back."
And with it, NFL scouts will be watching - whether he wants them to or not.
"No I haven't given it any thought at all," he said of the prospect of turning pro early. "I'm just focusing on the last two games and trying to make it to a bowl."
Sims gives himself good, not great, marks on the year.
"I think I've been okay," he said. "I think I've improved this year and I feel like I can get a lot better in all areas."
Like Bell and Gholston, Sims says he is more focused on team objectives at this point.
"We're a good team and if we win these last two games, we'll feel like the team we were last year," Sims said. "It came down to a play or two all season but we have to put that behind us.
"Coming off a loss to Nebraska, the bye week was tough in some ways. We just have to move forward and that gave us a lot of time to think about where we have to go and what the goal is."
For now, on the record at least, the goals are centered around the team for these juniors on Senior Day.
In the hours following the loss to Nebraska, Bell voiced his displeasure with officiating on Twitter with the following Tweet:
"I expected all the hate, but idc (I don't care) ... we legitimately lost ONE game this year ... and that was Notre Dame! The black & white team beat us 4 times."
Bell deleted the Tweet soon after he issued it.
Tuesday, after practice, he acknowledged his feelings.
Yeah, I was upset about the loss," he said. "I was upset about the way we lost. But it's over now. I can't go back. I just kept moving forward and take it to next week."
Arnett: No Regrets
During Tuesday's press conference, Mark Dantonio said he wishes Michigan State would have redshirted Tennessee wide receiver transfer DeAnthony Arnett, considering that the sophomore hasn't been able to land a regular role in the playing group.
DeAnthony is a guy that needs to continue to grow in our program.
"It's unfortunate that we didn't redshirt him because we had such high expectations and hopes for him at the beginning of the season," Dantonio said. "The reality is how many guys can you play? That's the reality.
"He needs to be a little more consistent in terms of knowing what to do. Play a little better at the point of attack in terms of blocking and catching the ball more consistently down the field. He has big play ability and a great future here. That being said. He's got the positive of the whole red shirting, non‑red shirting thing. If you're being red shirted, usually you're on the scout team and you're not getting the coaching that you're getting day‑to‑day. So he's received that (by being with the two-deep, on the varsity field). He's traveled at every game. But the number of plays that he's gotten game time really hasn't come to fruition for all parties involved.
"I'm sure he's disappointed in it. I'm a little disappointed in it as well. At the end of the day, you ask where his attitude and effort is, and it's very, very good. I think he's going to be a great player for us here. But people have to grow in every venue and environment they're in, and he has to do that as well. You have to say who is playing the best right now and try to go with those guys consistently."
Arnett, who had 24 catches last year as a true freshman for Tennessee, has just two catches in six brief game appearances this season.
Arnett has been seen putting in extra time after practice, working on routes and pass-catching fundamentals.
"After practice, I always get an extra 45 minutes in," he said. "Just getting better. That's pretty much it."
When asked if he had any regrets in exhausting his sophomore year of eligibility this season, Arnett said: "I have no regrets at all."
When asked what his ultimate goal for this season is, he said: "Just help as much as I can."
And playing time?
"That's ultimately not my decision, so I'm just trying to get better."
What will it take to get on the field?
"More hard work," he said. "Just plain and simple."
In what areas has he improved since August camp?
"I feel like I'm there," he said. "Even after camp, I was there. So nothing has changed."
And this season?
"It was just a learning experience," he said.
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