2009 Actual Season Record: 6-6
Spartan Nation Predicted 2009 Regular Season Record: 9-3
Predicted 2010 record: 8-4
Projected Big Ten 2010 Standing: 6th
Head Coach: Mark Dantonio
What went right in 2009? The offense was the highlight of the 2009 season. Spartan Nation declared Don Treadwell the assistant of the year for that performance. This side of the ball expected to be the Achilles heal became the anchor for the season and salvaged it from taking a step back.
Kirk Cousins became a bright spot for a pro set offense and with an offensive line held together with scotch tape, the Spartans offense found a way. It was one of the most impressive performances of overachieving inside Spartan football in years.
What went wrong in 2009? The defense. It was ugly. It was hideous. It was WORSE than me in a thong. I am not kidding. The defensive backfield was loaded with experience; we just didn’t know that the experience still didn’t equal talent.
The lack of talent was what hurt most. The staff chose to not break multiple red shirts that could have helped the D and unlike the offense that had people step up, few did. It was a defensive performance that made the much-maligned JLS years look like the good old days.
Analysis: The defense was by far the worst part of the Michigan State team in 2009. Not only among the worst in the Big Ten, they were among the worst in the nation. They gave up nearly 28 points per game, an embarrassment to say the least. They were dead last in passing defense and it wasn’t even close at 269 yards per game. They were tenth in turnover margin and dead last in passing defense efficiency. All of those numbers make a proud program that built its reputation on defense wanting to projectile vomit.
Mark Dantonio is lauded nationally as a defensive genius and I totally agree. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi has taken the bulk of the criticism from the Spartan Nation and frankly, it was his side of the ball that struggled, but it was a lot more of a problem than Narduzzi.
He is a very good DC and I am glad he is here. Here is a clip from an article in the January Spartan Nation Magazine:
The defensive backfield is a head-scratcher. In 2008 the Spartans made the plays that this year they didn’t, plain and simple. That is why everyone, the staff, the fans, the media (myself included), was expecting this to be the best part of the team.
There were some critical points. One head coach, whom the Spartans played this season and I am a close friend with, assessed the Spartans defensive backfield this way to me, “When you watch the film I really don’t think it is coaching. They have their guys in the right spots. You see where guys have good technique and that goes to coaching. What really is troubling from a coach’s perspective is that they don’t play the ball well in the air. That isn’t coaching, that is instinct. Once they upgrade on talent, you can tell the coaching is there.”
Last year’s senior class was a reflection of the recruiting struggles in the last years of JLS. In fairness to Smith, the success of the previous two seasons was also a sign of his good recruiting prior to the struggles at the end.
This is the year the defense has to improve. The offense will be better than it was, and we have already established how good they were. It is the defense that must improve and not only slightly.
I realize that I open myself up for great criticism for publicly supporting Narduzzi as I do, but I mean it. He does need more from some on his staff and I will leave it at that, but he and Dantonio now have to plug in their players and fix this albatross.
The Spartans lost four games last season when the offense had them in the lead in the fourth quarter. In 2010, those types of statistics will not be encouraging. In year four, this program has to make a strong move ahead. They don’t have to get to nine wins, but a six-win season (barring massive unexpected injury) would be a step back. Seven wins is the floor on what would be a success, and I think the Spartans get to eight.
How is the program trending? Up! Coach Dantonio has two highly qualified coordinators and overachievement in 2008 led to frustrations among the Spartan Nation with a disappointing 2009.
This spring they will start to plug in almost entirely their own recruits and with a great offense to lead them will have a successful campaign. Competition and developing depth are the name of the game in East Lansing this spring.