Michigan State offense has been slow to get going in recent springs.
This was not the case thus far this spring.
The MSU offense has already found its stride, which should cause opponents on Michigan State’s schedule to cringe.
Following the White team’s 20-13 victory over the Green team, senior running back Nick Hill spoke about the offense’s remarkable progression.
“I think from the beginning of the spring until now, we got better every day. At the beginning, the defense was still a little shaky, so I think that from day one until now we have made a lot of progress,” Hill said. “Offensively, I felt like we were strong all spring. Our team went in the right direction this spring and we are going to continue to get better.”
The biggest difference was at quarterback. The Spartans have an experienced quarterback in Connor Cook, as well as several talented backups.
Cemented as the starter for the fall, Cook displayed a great deal of confidence this spring.
“I think the main difference is just my level of fun. I think before I was just so focused on trying to be the best quarterback out there and so focused on trying to win each day, win each practice, win each scrimmage or Spring game but I was just so focused on myself and not really focusing on other things that I should’ve been focusing on,” he said.
As a result, Cook looked cool in the pocket during Saturday’s spring game. In the waning minutes of the contest, Cook led the White team on a game-winning drive, culminating in a 2-yard touchdown pass to Josiah Price with 23 seconds remaining.
“I thought I was good besides the interceptions,” Cook said of his performance. “Demetrious Cox had a great play on the first one and then the second, I think if I just threw it a little harder and a little higher, aimed outside more, then it probably would’ve been a completion or, if anything, an incomplete pass. Those are two throws that I want to have back and I think besides those, I thought I played decent.”
While Damion Terry did not see a great deal of time behind Cook on Saturday, the redshirt freshman turned heads by playing at wide receiver.
“This was actually the first time that we ever had him at receiver,” Cook said. “We just wanted to do something different for the Spring game and just try to mix things up, try to keep the defense on their toes and I think we did that.”
Co-Offensive Coordinator Jim Bollman has also been impressed with Terry’s athleticism.
“He certainly is a threat running the ball as you can see, as he scored that very first touchdown,” Bollman said. “And he’s a movement kind of guy. For his age, he needs to continue to keep working on his passing game, which he’s doing, and steadily improving.”
One of the most trusted targets on offense on Saturday was tight end Josiah Price. The sophomore hauled in five catches for 81 yards and a touchdown, making a lasting impression upon the coaching staff.
“Josiah had a great day. He caught some nice balls and he’s a proven player in our minds,” Bollman said. “He got a lot of snaps last year and did a lot of good things and he’s had a good spring.”
Cook loves to throw to Price, who has developed into a consistent receiver and blocker.
“I am extremely comfortable with him; I think you saw from the first pass that I threw to him,” Cook said. “I thought for sure I was overthrowing it and then he reached up and somehow made a great play. Anytime you have a big body like that… who’s not afraid to go up and get it, it gives me more confidence myself to give him the ball.”
The ground game was also solid on Saturday for the Green team. Veteran Nick Hill carried the ball ten times for 69 yards, both game-highs between the two squads.
Hill will look to see some touches in multiple ways this season behind Jeremy Langford. Hill also wants make the most out of his senior season at MSU.
“Knowing that this is my last spring is a shocker. I need to take everything in and make sure I get better in every aspect,” he said. “I need to be consistent with every play, rather than having a big play here and there. I want to be someone the coaches can rely on to be consistent and that can make plays. Those were my goals for coming into this spring and for heading into next fall. I take the mindset into the game that I just need to go out there and do what I can do and nothing more or less. I make sure that I execute what I need to do.”
Despite the offense’s success as a whole, however, the unit has much work to do between now and fall camp.
The team’s enemy is complacency after a Rose Bowl victory and Big Ten Championship last season.
“We have to act like we still have something to prove and know that we still have things to improve on,” Hill said. “We are not going to be complacent and we are still going to work hard. The seniors are going to step up, and we as a group know that we need to have our best year. Last year’s seniors left a legacy and a mark and that is what we are trying to do.”
“I feel like everyone on our whole football team is just striving for greatness every day,” Cook added. “For all the things we’ve accomplished, guys are more hungry and that starts with the older guys, and the younger guys are following their lead.”
The Spartan Nation has little reason to worry when it comes to this offense. Filled with hard workers craving more, the offense looks to be one of the program’s best in years.
“I know that we feel really good about our guys, and I think they’ll have a great summer and we’ll come back ready to get rolling,” Bollman said.