It was the worst-case scenario for Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio, but on Sunday, the realizations had finally set in: The Spartans were going to lose all three talented juniors that had been weighing their options for forgoing their senior year and opting instead to become eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Right off the bat, big-time tight end Dion Sims became the first to announce his departure from the program late last week; followed shortly thereafter by star running back Le'Veon Bell, and topped-off with the final loss of defensive end William Gholston.
Dantonio truly drew an unlucky hand with the combined announcements that all three NFL Draft-eligible players would be leaving school, but after a 6-6 regular season and a close victory over TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl to top off the season, the reality isn't quite all that surprising.
One cannot help but wonder if a more-successful season may have swayed any or all of the star juniors to return for their senior season, but at this point, everything remains to be nothing more than speculation. It is without a doubt that Dantonio will feel the immediate sting from the departure of these three talented athletes--some more than others--but as part of his duties as a head coach, Dantonio can make or break his program with a response to the loss.
Defensive dynamo and new father, William Gholston, wrote an open letter to the fans of the Michigan State program in an effort to better explain himself and his choice to go pro. In it, he thanked the coaches and crowds that have cheered him on since day one, but says he must now follow what he deems to be the best decision for himself at this point in his playing career.
"In the days since our Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl victory, I have decided to forgo my senior year at Michigan State and declare for the 2013 NFL Draft," Gholston writes. "While I know I still have a great deal to accomplish, I am very excited about the challenges that the future holds and I promise to always represent the University with class, dignity, and professionalism.
"From Coach [Mark] Dantonio, to our entire staff, to my incredible teammates, to each of you unbelievable fans that back us each and every day, I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Gholston's departure will surely be felt on the defensive side of the pigskin, but that which will truly suffer will be the MSU offense which has already struggled mightily this past season. Sims was becoming a go-to playmaker for the lackluster Spartans' passing game and Bell was the heart and soul of a core group of offensive talents.
Overall, each new hole left by these juniors will be difficult to manage on their own, but combined, they present coach Dantonio with one of the most-difficult situations he's ever faced as the leader of the Michigan State Spartans. All that's left now, is to see how he and the program will respond.
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