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2009 Spring Preview Series - Michigan State Spartans


Resting on the Plateau or Still Ascending?

Finally, some relevancy surrounds this once storied program. Bubba Smith, George Webster, and Brad Van Pelt may not be walking through that door, but Coach Mark Dantonio has brought some stability to a program famous for drugged up star players and an inferiority complex. Huge wins over Wisconsin, Iowa, Northwestern and Michigan paved the way for a Capitol One berth and some national recognition, while a top 15 recruiting class illustrated the Spartan's plans for long term success. The Spartans have updated and top notch facilities, a fervent alumni base, and enough undergrad students to make Spartan Stadium packed and intimidating. So what can we look for this Spring?


The Future. Or Maybe the Now.

The Importance of Having a Ringer

In 2008, stud HB Javon Ringer carried the ball 390 times, averaging 30 carries per game. Michigan States' offensive scheme was simple: Drive block ahead and let Ringer find holes to squirt through. When defensive teams grew wise and packed the line, wide receivers Blair White and Mark Dell showed excellent ability to make game changing catches in traffic. Plus, the Spartans could depend on their senior quarterback Brian Hoyer for effective, mostly mistake-free throws.

Ringer and Hoyer are gone, replaced by - we don't know. A quarterback battle is brewing between Elite 11 quarterback Andrew Maxwell (pictured above), Oklahoma transfer Keith Nichol, and Kirk Cousins, who looked accurate and composed against Ohio State last year. And thanks to the loss of Ringer, Dantonio will be placing more responsibility on whoever is chosen as starter. Ringer's replacement will be either Andre Anderson, A.J. Jimmerson, or frosh Edwin Baker. Either way, the vanilla smash mouth offense of 2008 will be altered to accomodate the change in players.

And frankly, the offense should be mixed up. MSU ran into huge trouble last year when they faced top defenses, scoring only 17 pppg in their 4 losses. What changes will be made by the Spartan coaching staff? Will the offense add a slot receiver for most formations, instead of a two tight end set?

Defensive Talent or Scheming: Which is more important?

Instead of blitzing and incorporating numerous zone's, 2008 Michigan State ran a vanilla defensive scheme, relying on solid linebacker play to slow the excellent offensive systems of Iowa, Northwestern, and Wisconsin. No one will forget Adam Decker picking the correct gap and tackling Shonn Greene to clinch the Iowa game.

When faced with highly talented players from OSU and Penn State however, the normally solid Spartain defense looked intimidated and overmatched. Will this obvious difference in talent levels between State and its opponents be addressed? Will the talented new recruits play right away? Who will replace Otis Wiley. the All Big 10 senior safety and lead leader? Will All Big 10 LB Greg Jones explode onto the national scene with more 12-15 tackle games?


Jones, an Ohio boy, is ready for dominance. Will he get help?


                    2009-2010 Schedule



vs. Montana State

East Lansing, MI


vs. Central Michigan

East Lansing, MI


at Notre Dame

South Bend, IN


at Wisconsin

Madison, WI


vs. Michigan

East Lansing, MI


at Illinois

Champaign, IL


vs. Northwestern

East Lansing, MI


vs. Iowa

East Lansing, MI



Minneapolis, MN.


vs. Western Michigan

East Lansing, MI


at Purdue

West Lafayette, Ind.


vs. Penn State

East Lansing, MI


Must Win: Michigan (10/03/09)

The 35-21 beating in Ann Arbor has put pressure on the Spartans to put on the same kind of exhibition in front of their hometown crazies. A win in the crisp October weather could give us a 4-1 MSU team and a whole lot of momentum going into the heart of its Big 10 schedule.

Rivalry Comment:

The away/home dichotomy of Michigan State's schedule favors Mark Dantonio's troops in a landslide. The superpower game (Penn State), the rivalry game (UM),  the revenge game (Iowa)...all at home. Not a bad deal.

Michigan State is really young at its skill positions and Dantonio will struggle to get the same comfort without Ringer and Hoyer. This uncertainty could negatively effect the offensive performance.

Predicted Finish: 7-5 (4-4 conference)

2009 Esquire Rating: 3 out of 5 Cigars