When mining for potential breakout players, a good place to start is highly-touted former recruits who are showing signs of fulfilling their potential.
Michigan State tight end Dion Sims is entering his redshirt sophomore season poised to finally live up to his high school All-American status. He redshirted in 2010 while serving a suspension following a guilty plea to felony receiving and concealing stolen property.
The 6-5, 276-pound Sims caught 12 passes before playing the second half of last season with a broken hand, but is expected to take over the starting job from departed Brian Linthicum.
“He's got a phenomenal ceiling,” offensive coordinator Dan Roushar told Spartan Nation Radio, per MLive.com. “I've had a number of guys - (strength coach) Ken Mannie's staff and trainers that have come up and said Dion is a different person right now. The way he's working, his maturity is starting the show. I think his desire, his urgency has increased, and we're very excited for him."
With two years of eligibility remaining, Sims is the No. 9 tight end prospect for the 2013 class, according to early ratings by NFLDraftScout.com.
“He has to stay healthy," Roushar said. "He has to play to his ability, but the things that we saw in the spring - although he was casted up until the spring game - we saw a lot improvement. And then there's still a long ways for him yet to go. He could be as talented as a tight end as I've been around, and we've had some really good ones. So very excited about his potential. That's his job, my job, our job to have him reach that."
It's high praise for Sims, who has excellent size and could make a big move up draft boards with a strong 2012 season. Beyond Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert, NFLDraftScout.com doesn't have any tight ends rated as potential first-round prospects at this time.
With the NFL continuing to place increased value on receiving tight ends who can work the middle of the field and be too fast for linebackers and too fast for safeties to cope with, scouts are on the prowl for prospects who fit the mold. The 2012 class didn't offer much top-end talent at the position, so that will only create more opportunities for tight ends to emerge in time for next April.