Michigan State had a ton of hype heading into the 2012 season, people outside of the program were calling for the Spartans to make it back to their first Rose Bowl since the 1987 season. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, the exact opposite happened: Michigan State almost missed out on a bowl game.
The passing game struggled as quarterback Andrew Maxwell took reins of the offense, but he wasn’t helped by receivers who seemed to drop every open ball. The only bright spot on offense was running back Le’Veon Bell who departed early to enter the NFL draft. Some may argue that tight end Dion Sims was a bright spot as well, but I would argue he missed too much time to be a real factor in the offense. Sims left early as well, and Michigan State will be searching for a new running back and a few tight ends this spring.
A majority of Michigan State’s top ten defense will be back, with 7 starters and 11 players with starting experience returning. The defense should be strength again for the Spartans, though a few questions need to be answered: What defensive ends will step up? Which back up linebackers will rotate in with the starters? Who will be the 2nd corner behind Darqueze Dennard?
Michigan State lost their offensive coordinator Dan Rousher to the NFL where he will be the Saints running back coach. Jim Bollman will be co-offensive coordinator with Dave Warner. Can they get the passing game back on track, or find a replacement running back? Hopefully we find out in the spring…
2012 Record:7-6 (3-5 B1G, Fourth in Legends Division)
Bowl Game:Buffalo Wild Wings- Beat TCU 17-16
Head Coach: Mark Dantonio, 7th year
First Practice:March 19
Spring Game:April 20
The More Things Change…..Plenty of change is happening in East Lansing. Like I stated earlier the Spartans must try to replace: Le’Veon Bell, Dion Sims, Will Gholston, Johnny Adams, Chris Norman as well as a few others. The major concern has been who will be the next running back? Michigan State relied so much on Bell last year, and losing him hurts the offense exponentially. Nick Hill will surely get the opportunity to step up, but a lot of talk has been about junior Jeremy Langford who has received praise from Will Gholston as well as some of the coaches. Langford is FAST and has some moves to go a long with that speed, but has switched from running back to defensive back, to wide receiver and finally back to running back. All of the change may have slowed his progression, but look for him to get a ton of opportunities to shine before the season starts. With all of that being said, I still would not overlook the possibility of one or two of the three freshman running backs coming in to see the field this year. Michigan State has played freshman running backs before and Gerald Holmes, RJ Shelton, Delton Williams will all get an opportunity to play. Unfortunately for them, none of the three enrolled early which may hinder their chances at becoming the first running back on the depth chart.
The More They Stay the Same…..The top defensive unit in the B1G will be returning 7 starters and 11 players with starting experience. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi will have a few redshirt freshman to play around with this spring as he loves to rotate in young players. Look for linebackers Riley Bullough and Jamal Lyles to get their names out there this year.
Let’s Get Ready to Rumble: Safety’s
Michigan State did not lose any safety’s, but moved Jairus Jones from safety to outside linebacker. Jones battled with Kurtis Drummond all of the 2012 season for the starting safety spot beside Isaiah Lewis. Drummond looks to be in a battle again this year with redshirt freshman Demetrious Cox. No player on the MSU roster has received more praise than Cox who Dantonio says could have started the 2nd half of 2012 but the coaching staff decided to save his redshirt. RJ Williamson will also be in the mix, he played quite a bit last year and impressed me with his play. Bottom line is: Demetrious Cox has been the talk of the program for a while on the defensive side of the ball, I would pay attention to his progression this spring.
Nothing to See Here: Wide Receiver
Michigan State fans had plenty to complain about last year when it comes to the wide receiver position, but with a year of starting experience under their belt this position should flourish. The Spartans will return all receivers with starting/game experience including: Bennie Fowler, Keith Mumphery, Tony Lippett, Aaron Burbridge, DeAnthony Arnett, Macgarrett Kings Jr, and Andre Sims Jr. The current listed starters are: Tony Lippett, Keith Mumphery and Aaron Burbridge. Look for redshirt freshman Monty Madaris to fight for some time on the field as well. With at least 8 wide outs capable of seeing the field, the Spartans wide receivers are looking to have a breakout year.
Name to Watch: Andrew Maxwell, Quarterback
Well last year was a disaster for Maxwell who was projected to have a big year following the departure of Kirk Cousins. His completion percentage was pretty horrible at 52.5% he only completed a little more than half of his attempts. Sure some of that can be pinned on dropped passes, but Maxwell only had four more touchdown passes than interceptions (13TD/9INT). Mark Dantonio has assured everyone that Maxwell is still currently the “guy” but Connor Cook and Tyler O’connor will see some 1st team reps this spring. Dantonio also mentioned it was very import that Tyler O’connor, “Has opportunities to move forward as a QB.” Maxwell surely must impress this spring or his starting position may be taken by Cook or O’connor.
Spring is a Success If….The Spartans remember: “Pride Comes Before the Fall”
I did an article on this last year and I feel that this is and has become a staple of the program. Last year the team seemed to lose their underdog edge, but a humbling season should have them working hard to prove themselves again. There probably will not be much hype heading into this season, and maybe there shouldn’t be any. Maybe that is exactly how Mark Dantonio and co. want it to be? Spartan fans should look forward to some good spring football, and hopefully the players can remember that “Pride Comes Before the Fall.”
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