Partially blamed for the Spartans’ sputtering offense last season, the offensive line absorbed some criticism over the offseason. But reinvigorated with new talent and energy, the group is excited to prove the doubters wrong. Senior leader and left guard Blake Treadwell heads a group of determined Spartans ready to lead the Michigan State offense.
Inexperience hampered the Green and White in 2012, as the offensive line particularly struggled to fill gaps caused by injury. Treadwell believes the line’s depth is much better this season, and the unit will be more prepared in case the injury bug bites. “We hope that nothing happens, but if somebody goes down, these young guys that we have will be able to come in and pick up steps and not lose our momentum,” the fifth-year senior said. “We’ll keep that pressure going.”
One key cog missing in this year’s MSU offensive machine is Le’Veon Bell. When the talented running back left early for the NFL, a big hole opened up in the backfield. Treadwell knows that the offense will miss the bruising back, but he doesn’t think that the offensive line’s job will be tougher as a result. “All offense starts with the linemen. If the linemen don’t block, the running backs can’t run. So if anything, we need to keep doing our job, making those big holes, and we’ll find a guy to fill the running back shoes.”
Treadwell has also noticed marked improvement from the quarterbacks and wide receivers. Thanks to hard work from a number of players, the groups are shaping up nicely. “I expect the wide receivers to really have a breakout year this year. This summer especially I’ve been seeing them work really hard. Bennie [Fowler] has been pushing wide receivers. Quarterbacks and receivers have really been working hard,” the 6’3, 304 pound beast said. “So we expect them to really break out of the shell and have a great year. [Plus], our offensive line always starts up front. We can’t get our job done if nobody else can get their job done. So we know we must get it done.”
There will be pressure on each member of the offensive lineman to perform immediately, as there are many young players thirsty for the opportunity to start. “There’s a lot of competition this year. So if one guy’s not doing his job, Coach Staten won’t be putting that guy in,” Treadwell said. “So it puts pressure on us older guys to perform as well as the younger guys. So it’s really good overall to have great depth and anybody can play in this spot.”
Thanks to the unit’s versatility, offensive line coach Mark Staten will be able to rotate guys in and out. Spartan fans will notice more quick substitutions, which will allow the squad’s linemen to stay fresh. “We’re going to try and do that this year more, if there’s some opportunities to put the younger guys in. I know Coach Staten said he wants to do that, give them some experience,” the East Lansing native said. “So whatever helps the team, we’re willing to do.”
Co-offensive coordinator Jim Bollman will also bring new wrinkles to the Spartan mindset. Bollman has made a good impression upon the players thus far, bringing more positive energy to East Lansing. “[Bollman] and Staten actually go way back in the day. [Bollman] and Staten are really on the same page on a lot of things this year. They kind of have the same mindset, the same goals,” Treadwell explained. “Coach Bollman, one thing we notice about him, is his care for the players. One thing I noticed when he first stepped in was how much you can trust him and how much he really cares about all the players, [even with] issues outside of football.”
One change head coach Mark Dantonio has implemented is designating quarterbacks as “live” in practice. No longer sheltered by the red jersey, quarterbacks must rely on the offensive line to ensure that the defense doesn’t find a way into the pocket.
“Playing live, I tell you what, is a lot different than quarterbacks in a redshirt. Because as offensive linemen if we mess up, our guy getting hit like that, you never want that to happen,” Treadwell said. “So if anything, it really sharpens your game. It really sharpened the offensive linemen, defensive linemen. I’ll tell you one of the main problems is when a quarterback is in his redshirt is for the defensive guys playing the quarterback got sacked, because he just got tapped on the shoulder. So this time we know who got sacked and who didn’t. It really sharpens your skill and keeps you on alert. I enjoy it. It’s a good experience.”
With senior left guard Blake Treadwell leading a deeper, veteran group of talented offensive linemen, the Michigan State offense seems ready for the fall. The offense is not too far off, as Treadwell will attest to. The offensive line is excited to be the difference maker for the Green and White.
“This year we’re really looking to have a breakout year for offense. Last year there were some points in time when a game was close where if we got a big play here or a first down the results might have been different,” Treadwell said. “This year especially we’re looking forward to closing those inches and yards and really make a difference for our team.”