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VideOTEGame: Michigan State Roster Review

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Just gonna quietly sneak a few of these ratings pastcha here

Maryland v Michigan State
Behold, 75 speed
Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Once upon a time, this author did partake in the NCAA Football series. The year was 2009, the edition was 2008, and yeah, even a guy with no real taste for sports video games won 8 consecutive national championships for Michigan State before losing interest.

As I don’t own the system or game we’ve chosen to run this on, my contribution will be limited to my usual Statler & Waldorf bit, but at the very least I can offer my thoughts on how the noble souls still updating a game that was last published six years ago did in evaluating my Spartans. For reference, the ratings translate as follows:

90+ rating: Impact Player. This player certainly contends for All-Conference or even All-American honors and is constant problem for the opposition. Once you get to about 97+, there should only be maybe 5ish(?) guys in the country capable of that rating.

85-89 rating: Decidedly above average to great even for a Top 25 program. Almost guaranteed to be on the field and producing at a high level. Still high All-Conference caliber players here with occasional All-American ceiling. The best player on even an above average team can end up here.

80-84 rating: Very good player, very likely to start at the Top 25 level and be an asset. Plenty of P5 All-Conference Talent still here.

75-79 rating: Good player, a healthy chunk of P5 starters will end up here and you start to see bench players around here for good teams with a great player ahead. Still capable of seeing difference makers at this level, but a lot of players begin to fall into this category. Best player on an average team can be here.

70-74 rating: Below average to average player at P5 level. Might start but also represent a weakness in the lineup. Another range with a ton of players.

Below 70 rating: Almost certainly a below average average player that rounds out the bottom of the roster. Liability to have on the field at the P5 level. Most teams should have much fewer players in this range than the 70s. For attribute ratings, attributes of secondary importance to a position can fall into the 60s even for good players.

Those labels in mind, let’s see what we have here. I will do my level best to avoid unfair or overly personal criticism, but this team has frustrated a great deal the last couple years:

Quarterbacks

Uffda. Tough...but probably fair. The ratings at the top there reflect what seems to be a plurality opinion in the fanbase, that the competition to replace Brian Lewerke is probably between Rocky Lombardi and Theo Day, and at this point neither are especially inspiring choices. Now...do we have any evidence that Day is 6 points better than RS freshman Peyton Thorne? Nope, not a lick.

These ratings also suggest that any of MSU’s four QB options would be a decent passer if tabbed as the starter - all of them have throw power in the low 80s, accuracy in the high 70s. Please, please, PLEASE let that somehow be reality.

About the only real nitpick I have here is giving Lombardi a 67 speed rating. No one’s going to confuse him for Pat White. But last year, even when everyone in the building knew he was only coming in for a designed QB run or at most an option look, he still occasionally made the line to gain. He’s not that slow, and if it looked like he got tackled quick on most of his carries last year, well, again, the entire defense just knew to watch him and run wherever he was going.

Running Backs

Somebody’s an Elijah Collins fan, rightfully so in my opinion. That high awareness rating is a good reflection, in my view, of Collins’ quality vision. I’d say his pass blocking might be a little underrated here - in fact, this is a pretty pessimistic view of the entire group’s pass blocking, but maybe this is a rating of how they’d be if you switched them to offensive line, which I recall being an option for some reason.

Beyond Collins, Connor Heyward’s awareness may be a bit generous, as I don’t recall him correcting his path much. It’s also true, however, that he had a bigger role in 2018, when MSU ran more man blocking with predestined running lanes that then generally did not materialize.

Can’t say much about the guys after that, as most of them have only played bit roles. The assessment of Ant Williams as a burner who isn’t going to get away if he doesn’t have space feels pretty fair so far. There’s also an omission here in late recruiting add Donovan Eaglin, but who knows what kind of stats he deserves. I am intrigued, though, by the great speed and accel ratings given to incoming frosh Jordon Simmons.

Wide Receivers

Hard to argue much with these ratings - MSU’s receiver group is pretty young, and Darrell Stewart Jr. and Cody White absorbed tons of targets, so even the guys who played some didn’t rack up big statistics.

I would probably give Nailor at least a 90 in speed - he didn’t get to show it much between frequent injuries and MSU’s gobbledygook offense, but the guy can flat out fly. Maybe that’s accounted for in his great acceleration, though.

I might also boost CJ Hayes’ catch stat. Although he was only used rotationally, I had the distinct impression of a guy who caught everything thrown his way, and a corresponding desire for him to play more.

Tight Ends

I do appreciate the ability of this video game world to abracadabra away injuries; Matt Dotson’s season-threatening Achilles tear is now a thing of the past. That being said, that catch rating feels pretty generous - MSU fans have spent much of the last few seasons lamenting the frequent drops out of this position group.

Trenton Gillison feels a bit underrated here. Even though he hasn’t been used much yet, when the old staff could be bothered to use him his physical gifts were obvious, so stats like break tackle could maybe be ticked up a bit.

Further down the depth chart, Parks Gissinger is a converted defensive end, and Adam Berghorst got in a few games last year but only as a deep reserve. Their ratings are probably fine. Incoming freshman Tommy Guajardo getting big disrespek in not being listed.

Offensive Line

Uhhhhhhhhhhhh

Yep, sure, that’s fine, nothing to see here, totally fair across the board, moving right along -

OK, OK, fine.

There are some generous ratings here. Maybe these are based on a world where all these guys have been able to stay healthy and develop normally, instead of being 1) constantly hurt and 2) coached by Jim Bollman for multiple years.

There is a big omission, however, in senior C Matt Allen, a multiyear starter. I’d probably place him at something like at 81 or 82 overall. Another position without the incoming freshmen listed, as Dallas Fincher and Justin Stevens are AWOL.

Beyond that, I don’t know how we get to Luke Campbell as a three-way tie for the best OL on the roster. If the season had occurred normally, it appeared very unlikely he even was going to be starting. I do think Kevin Jarvis is rated correctly, and if anything, I might have had him a tick better overall. I’d also nudge AJ Arcuri up a bit, especially in pass blocking. When he was able to stay healthy, he did look very promising for stretches.

Again, I don’t want to dump too much on these very real, still-technically-amateur athletes. But looking at this chart overall, it’s difficult to square the way a lot of them are rated versus the results MSU has seen from its offensive line over the last few years.

Defensive Line

Another case of tough, but mostly fair. In VideOTEGame World, Jacub Panasiuk is NOT taking a late-career redshirt and sitting this season out, so MSU’s roster regains one of its few All-Conference possibilities.

These ratings also correctly reflect that beyond Panasiuk and Naquan Jones, there’s probably a pretty steep dropoff to the rest of these guys, though I think some of these ratings are a little punitive, especially in the case of Dashaun Mallory - MSU’s DT depth chart was just an impenetrable wall of Raequan Williams and Mike Panasiuk the last few years, I would expect Mallory to show out beyond a 70 rating.

There’s also a mess of incoming freshmen not rated here, which I normally wouldn’t mind, but the actual depth situation is such that at least one, probably two of those guys are going to play - DE Kyle King, DE Simeon Barrow, DE Avery Dunn, DE Jeff Pietrowski, DE Chris Mayfield, DE Jasiyah Robinson - there’s no reason at all for the staff to keep that many guys redshirted.

Linebackers

Ahhh, finally a 90 rating. It feels correct for senior LB Antjuan Simmons to be listed as MSU’s best overall player.

But damn, behind him, there’s nobody in this group with better than a 75 in tackling? Look, MSU’s linebackers aren’t always complete players, but they usually make the play if they’re in position to do it. It’s usually coverage that causes problems. Same issue with the play recognition ratings - I don’t think MSU’s linebackers failed to understand what’s happening, I just think they were in schemes that didn’t account for the novel and brand-new development of the RPO.

Once more, we’re missing incoming freshmen, as Cole DeMarzo isn’t accounted for.

Secondary

Oh, so here we find Matt Allen, mystifyingly listed as a cornerback instead of a center. I mean, sure, why not. This season isn’t going to mean anything either here or in meatspace. Hell, considering he’s got 53 speed, he’s still pretty damn good as a corner, isn’t he?!

I’d probably boost Xavier Henderson’s overall rating a couple of points here - he’s MSU’s best defensive back by a decent margin. I’m also a little confused by Shakur Brown’s tackle rating, given his standout attribute is blitzing. In fact, there’s some low tackle ratings across the board here, though it’s fair to say a lot of these guys have only been rotational players so far.

Special Teams

Hoo boy, we...might not be accounting for last season’s struggles for McLovin (Coghlin), but that’s fine I guess. I don’t know about that power rating either, given his accuracy dropped off pretty sharply beyond 45 yards or so.

And man, not only is incoming freshman K Jake Olson left out, but MSU’s voluminous boot room is shorted here - Bryce Baringer, Cole Hahn, Tyler Hunt and Evan Morris are all persona non grata, I guess. It’s true that Aussie transfer Mitchell Crawford is probably the plug-and-punt starting punter, but all those other dudes have been in the picture at one point or another.