Mark Dantonio is a happy man this spring. He continues to stress the fact that his fifth Spartan team is more deep and loaded than ever. The amazing thing is that these statements are coming BEFORE his deepest recruiting class has hit campus.
Here is another fact that will fill your cup of hope not with kool-aid, but with reality. There will be more depth (by that I mean talent and not numbers) on the MSU team come fall than at any time since Duffy.
That needs to be tempered with the fact that it is very young depth, but for the first time IN MY LIFETIME (40 years old), the MSU football team can sustain a season ending injury to ANY starter and expectations will not and should not be hindered.
Mark Dantonio is not a man to waste words. Those of us that know him well can tell you that he is not one to exaggerate or go the other way like Lou Holtz and poor mouth things that are not bad. In talking about Mike Sadler, the new punter, he uses words like “Explosive” and raves about his performance.
Spartan Nation has expounded on Sadler since we broke the story of his commitment to MSU, and I can tell you that punting will continue to be a strong point for the Spartans in 2011.
Dantonio stresses that the punt has to stay a weapon and it will. He said of Sadler that he was impressed with him red shirting since he was talented enough to go to many top-flight schools and start. He also commented on how fast he gets the ball away from the snap.
How thrilled is Dantonio with Dan Conroy? He said that he “Picked up right where he left off.”
Dantonio continues to talk that the OL is coming. In fact he said, “You have to like where we are at with the offensive line.” There is no doubt the two guard spots are solid. Joel Foreman and Chris “MAGNUS” McDonald are cemented in as starters. Anyone that practices there are simply getting ready in case of an injury or preparing for Foreman’s graduation at the end of the year. Dantonio raved about the consistency of Magnus this spring.
Ethan Ruhland is ahead of Blake Treadwell at center right now, but that isn’t because Treadwell isn’t good. He is learning technique and the calls that Ruhland has been practicing since he arrived while he was on D. The fact Ruhland is ahead is not based on talent; it is simply based on learning the nuances. I will be shocked if a starter is named any time soon. Treadwell is getting better every practice and QB Kirk Cousins told me that he doesn’t care if they wait until the week before the first game to name the starter. The center position is a toss up.
At the tackle spots Skyler Schofner is the starter on the right side. If he stays healthy I would be shocked if he loses that job come Youngstown State.
The left side is more interesting. Jared McGaha and Dan France are in a battle over there. Both get reps on the right also, but they are battling for this spot. Whoever is in the battle will have their hands full when fall comes. Junior college All American Fou Fonoti is going to give everyone a run for that starting spot the moment he arrives on campus.
Dantonio said of France that, “He is athletic and tough.” He added about Schofner that he is a, “Very young player with tremendous agility.”
So to sum it up, the Spartans are rock solid at the guard, will have an upgrade at center with Ruhland or Treadwell, and will be solid at the tackles. It is coming, but I am not worried as many are. There are three open spots, but there are a plethora of talented young men vying for the spots. This is a fact to calm your nerves, there will be young men not seeing the field on the Spartan football team this fall that would have started the first two years of Dantonio’s regime.
WR is perhaps the deepest position on this team. They go as many as eight strong according to Dantonio and that is before freshman sensation Juwan Ceasar hits the field in the fall. There are high expectations for him and a good chance he plays as a true freshman.
Speaking of weapons for Cousins, he has three NFL talent TEs. Brian Linthicum, Garrett Celek and Dion Sims are all proven commodities. That doesn’t even count some emerging young talent there also. If you take the eight receivers and the three TEs that is 11 solid weapons for offensive coordinator Dan Roushar.
Take a good look at Roushar’s 11 great weapons and that is without the running backs. Add to that amazing number, Larry Caper, Edwin Baker, and LeVeon Bell are all proven. Nick Hill is a threat each and every time he touches the ball. They will have to manufacture ways to get those 15 players’ touches. Dantonio said of Hill and his play this spring, “Every time he gets the ball he makes something happen.”
With all of these weapons I just don’t see how they keep the Keshawn Martin prototype Jeremy Langford (5th string RB) and Tony Lippett off of the defensive side of the ball. That would be more depth for the CB group. Are you getting the vibe here? Depth is the word of the day.
I have already hit this a few times, but Andrew Maxwell could start on 75% of the other Big Ten teams. He has the 100% trust of his teammates should Cousins (not hoping for it so don’t put words in my mouth) gets injured and he is a bona fide star.
In all of the discussion of weapons how about Todd Anderson at FB? He has emerged as the #1 FB and has really been impressive. This fifth year senior has the edge for the starters job and although Treadwell didn’t let his FB’s run the ball, they certainly do get to catch the ball. Roushar will study his tendencies and although the Spartans have been predictable with their use of the FB in the red zone, he is still a weapon.
Coming into the spring Denicos Allen was the penciled starter and barring an injury should leave it as one. He has speed to burn and is very athletic. He benches 420# according to Dantonio and his coach loves that he brings “Shock” to the defense.
Dantonio has been honest by saying he always wants more, but he can’t hide his excitement. His team is young, but they don’t have to go backwards this spring. They are able to take these players who all have at least one year in the system and really move forward. This may be the most productive spring of the Dantonio era.
Dantonio has raved that this team has great leadership and locker room chemistry. That combined with the productivity of the spring and the retention of a young, but deep team are all great reasons for the Spartan Nation to be excited about this coming campaign.