Spartan Football is in Good Hands With An Excellent Offensive Line
It is no secret that you win in football at the point of attack. The defensive and offensive lines get little respect, but they are the reason teams win championships. Since Mark Dantonio arrived in East Lansing as the head coach, charged with rebuilding a decimated program the lines have been his mission.
He can now take heed of his work and smile. In fact he said about the offensive line, “Offensive line, more experience than we’ve ever had before.” Words like that are like asking for an Amen from the choir. They are also good news for the Spartan Nation and bad news for the rest of the B1G.
Think about this. Henry Conway and Skyler Burkland where both recruited to be anchors on the offensive line. With injury, but sat the bench last year. With Dan France and Fou Fonoti both having excellent 2011 campaigns what happens now? That doesn’t even take into account multiple other players who either red shirted in 2011 or were also injured.
Dantonio addressed the incredible position that his big uglies have him in. “We’ve got seven starters back with Treadwell back and Skyler back, and our five starters. I think Jack Allen’s a guy that we red shirted last year, and we were conveniently able to hang on to that red shirt. I think he had an outstanding fall camp. Ethan Ruhland has played. Then you have the guys that started like Fonoti and Dan France, and Chris is back for‑‑ Chris McDonald is back for his fourth year as a starter. Then the left guard right now, Treadwell and Travis Jackson. So we have guys in the hunt.
Henry Conway is another guy we’ve mentioned that should be game ready as we move forward. So we’ve got experience there, and I think this is really the strongest offensive line group we’ve had since we’ve been here, and we’ve got numbers.
I look around the conference right now and people are having a hard time with their numbers in terms of having a spring football game, we’ve got numbers on both the offensive line and defensive line which will enable us to do that really throughout the entire spring.”
The biggest battle this spring and possibly into the summer is going to be at the much-ballyhooed left tackle. With a right-handed QB left tackle is the most important position on the offensive line.
After a successful 2011 season Dan France enters the spring as the starter, but he and Skyler Burkland are going to battle. In fact Dantonio gushed about the talented Burkland and where he could end up. Starting LT? RT? He said, “I think he could be either‑or. It’s important to remember that he was the starter coming into the fall or coming out of fall camp he was the starter. He’s a tremendous football player. He’s big. He’s extremely physical, tough, very athletic. Again, the offensive line was a position of concern last year. Everybody was wondering what we were going to do and how we were going to do it. Somehow at the end of the season we made it through.
I think it’s important to note that we weren’t sacked very often. That’s a great to Kirk Cousins and his quick release and getting the ball out of there. That’s a credit to our offensive line coaches, and what we called and how we protected our quarterback. It’s also a credit to our offensive line in terms of in our backs and our tight ends and our entire offense in terms of how we handled pressure and the different things we did.
Skyler’s a very good player. He’s going to end up playing some place. These guys will be challenged to play. Maybe we’ll just put all seven of them in there at once and play like that.”
Michigan State now stands out among the B1G and among the nation’s elite with OL talent. They are monsters, they are big and they are strong. One thing is for sure. It has been commonly said that each play in a college football game is a heavyweight fight on the lines. That is good news for a Spartan team that is ready to fight.
Mark Dantonio took no shortcuts rebuilding Spartan football. Get a step ladder and walk among the offensive line. They are ready for the fight. They are ready for the battles and in 2012 they will lead the Spartans to what could go from great seasons the last two years to magical.
The happiest man in the Spartan Nation had to be Andrew Maxwell. With this group of body guards, his first season in command certainly starts out on solid footing…if he can see over them!