Michigan State Spartans Football: Top five freshmen to watch for in 2015

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Jan 1, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; The Michigan State Spartans mascot during the game against the Baylor Bears in the 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium. The Spartans defeated the Bears 42-41. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State returns key starters and All-American candidates on both sides of the ball, but there are opportunities for several freshman to play early this year.

The Spartans enter the 2015 season with Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff aspirations due to the returns of quarterback Connor Cook and defensive end Shilique Calhoun.

Related: Michigan State 2015 Season Preview and Prediction

However, the departures of key players at positions including running back, receiver and cornerback have opened doors for freshman to make an immediate impact, too.

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The incoming MSU freshman group is the top-rated class signed during head coach Mark Dantonio’s tenure, ranking 22nd nationally and third in the Big Ten, according to 247Sports’ Composite Rankings. Michigan State flexed a bit of its newly established national appeal with this class, signing players from atypical areas such as Arizona, California, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

While most true freshmen are likely to redshirt — under Dantonio, only four to five true freshman per year have played — a high percentage of the players in this class seem to be solid candidates for immediate playing time. That said, they will also have a talented group of redshirt freshman to compete with that have an extra year in the system under their belt.

There will likely be more than five combined true and redshirt freshman who will play in 2015, so let’s take a look at the top five — players who will not only contribute, but have a noteworthy impact on the Spartans’ chase for national supremacy:

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