Next Man Up: How MSU Football will Move Past the SHOCKING News that Max Bullough has been Suspended!
Coaches constantly harp on overcoming adversity and being ready for your shot. Next man up is the mantra and battle cry of football from pee wee to the NFL. So while people debate without any details the MSU suspension of their star, the point of the matter is NEXT MAN UP for the Spartans.
Kyler Elsworth. You can CLICK RIGHT HERE to read a scouting report I did on Elsworth back in July. He is a fundamentally sound player that without him, the Spartans WOULD NOT have won the Buffalo Wild Wings bowl last season.
Elsworth will bring the tangibles that you get with Bullough. He is slightly faster than Max and brings the sure tackling and tireless will and energy. There were more than half the B1G schools that Elsworth could have started on this year. There is not a gigantic drop in the tangibles with Elsworth from Max. He has been Max’s primary backup and understands the game. I can tell you this, Elsworth’s coaches and teammates have respect and confidence in him.
Darien Harris is slated to take the job next year. As stated before, Harris has NFL talent and is a major upgrade over Bullough where speed is concerned. The concern with Harris is the mental part of the game. He is a terrific young man and teammate, but has allowed himself to let distractions (nothing bad) to keep him from being all he can be.
Harris would have been the primary backup to Bullough this season, and they had hoped to get him significant reps, but he was never ready. Again, Harris is a good kid, but his love for football has been questioned. If he doesn’t play in the NFL, it will be his fault because God gave him every tool.
The fact that Harris, a sophomore, couldn’t unseat Elsworth this year with the staff knowing that next year both Elsworth and Bullough would be graduated and gone is an indictment of Harris’s passion for the game. Spring was going to be big for Harris, but that time table has moved significantly up. I want to reiterate that I LOVE Harris. He is a super young man who has to find that love and passion for football he had in high school.
I asked MSU super DC Pat Narduzzi nine days ago about life after Bullough starting this spring and here are his comments. “Losing Max is going to be a big replacement. It could be a bunch of different guys. I don’t know who it is going to be. First of all, it has got to be a guy that can run the defense from huddle or a no huddle standpoint. I think Darien Harris, I think Riley Bullough will have a chance. Ed Davis will have a chance. We’ve tossed that name around too putting him in there. We have plenty of good guys. I think they’re all similar positions. So it could be anybody in there.”
I can tell you that Ed Davis has not run it this year and with less than a week until kickoff I don’t expect to see him fill Bullough’s shoes at the Rose Bowl. Riley wasted a year on offense and is not ready. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get reps, but not anywhere near running the system. Some are clamoring and asking about Jon Reschke and Shane Jones. Both are going to be terrific players at MSU and both are redshirting this year; something you wouldn’t break for only one game.
So, that means filling the shoes of one of the most ICONIC players in Spartan Football history will come down to a former walk-on who is all heart and passion and a player who physically has more gifts than Bullough, but not the same passion.
On the field, the physical part to me is not the biggest loss. What hurts is that Bullough is the heart and soul of this team; he is the QB on D and the entire team responds to him. His pre snap reads are as important to the MSU D as Peyton Manning’s are to the Denver Bronco offense.
The MSU D went to different level when Bullough took over in 2011 full time for a reason. He makes others around him better. Bullough watches film religiously and knows not only his job, but every offensive player and the other ten fellow Spartans.
He is constantly moving his teammates on pre snap read putting them into better spots and making adjustments up until a micro second before the snap. It is that part of the game that can’t be simulated. It is that knowledge that comes from hours in the film room and doing extra work.
For one game and on short notice, Elsworth gives the Spartans the best shot. Harris could be an upgrade in the future, but his lack of hunger to be great now has him ill prepared to take over. Does a light come on for him over the spring and he becomes great? Let’s hope so, but Harris not being able to step up right now and take over is concerning. He has had plenty of time to rep and prepare.
Now more than ever, MSU must come out offensively and attack to beat the Cardinal and Kyler Elsworth will have to deliver his best game. If you know Elsworth, he can do it. Like Bullough, he is loved by his teammates because they see how hard he works and gets the most out of what he has.
The loss of Bullough makes a win over Stanford more of a difficult task, but it is also unfair to act like Bullough was the only Spartan who played this year. Does MSU miss a key read that allows a score? Maybe, but if the offense goes on the attack, I think they can make up for that.
This defense has played a lot of games together. They have fed off of each other, they have worked with each other, and they have won a lot of games as a team. Not one player on any team is more important than the team.
I will say it right now, I think the game will be closer, but the Spartans will still win. This wasn’t a team built JUST on Max Bullough. I like Max, I care for him, and he will be fine. Right now, this Rose Bowl is about Michigan State and the sum of the parts is bigger than any one. Max Bullough is one of the best ever. He won’t be playing.
This game is about those that will be and I still expect a Spartans win.