EAST LANSING - New staff, new coach, new systems, new quarterback. Still it is rare to see a true freshman step right in and start, which is exactly the job that 6-foot-2, 185-pound standout receiver Mark Dell
"It came as a surprise to me," said Dell, who is from Harrison High School in Farmington Hills. "In the beginning it was pretty tough but I studied the playbook a lot and the fellow receivers like Devin (Thomas) and Deon (Curry) really helped me a lot."
His persistence and hard work paid off after being on the second team offense for several weeks before eventually getting reps with the first team offense, where he has stayed ever since.
Not only will Dell be a staple on offense, but he will also make his presence felt on special teams, handling the punt return duties.
"I can do whatever the coach needs me to do, if he wants me to catch punts or play receiver, I will do what it takes to get the job done," said Dell.
As a recruit, Dell was rated among the countrys top 150 players by ESPN.com and also was named among the nations top 25 wide receivers (18) by scout.com.
"He has great speed and great hands, he will be someone who will help us out a lot on offense and on special teams," said junior running back Javon Ringer. "He adapted to the offense very well and he doesnt seem very shook up out there."
But Dell is not the only freshman that will make their college debut as a starter on Saturday at Spartan Stadium.
Aaron Bates will get the starting nod at punter, beating out redshirt freshman Ed Wagner.
"The better competition Ed (Wagner) gave me the better I got, every punt was an important punt because I had to impress the coaches," said Bates. "It is pretty surreal when I think about it, I think I will be able to handle it and do well."
"The first thing I need to do is just relax out there, then I can work on consistency and my mechanics, the college game is all about hang time, so I have worked on hang time. They brought out the speakers to simulate the crowd noise and it was weird because I couldnt hear the rush coming."
Aside from punting duties, Bates will also backup Brian Hoyer on the field goal unit as the holder for kicker Brett Swenson.
Swenson was in the same situation as Dell and Bates last season, converting 15 of 19 field goals and all 33 of his extra point attempts as a true freshman.
Redshirt freshmen linebackers Jon Misch and Eric Gordon will start at the weak and strong side in the secondary with senior team captain Kaleb Thornhill in the middle.
Although he will not be a starter, defensive lineman Antonio Jeremiah should get some playing time at nose tackle as well.
"They have done a great job during camp and have stepped up to the challenge of not being a freshman anymore, now nobody is a freshman," said Thornhill.
"They are going to want to fly around out there and do things too much but they will settle down after the first couple of plays. They just need to remember what they need to do out there on the field."
When the Spartans open the season on Saturday against UAB, Mark Dantonio's incoming freshman class will be put to the test early, as many of them will have key contributions in the outcome of them game.
it is rare to see a true freshman step right in and start, which is exactly what true freshmen Mark Dell and Aaron Bates have done for Michigan State. Dell, a wide receiver and Bates a punter will both step in for the Spartans.