Dienhart: Plenty of questions remain for MSU offense
Michigan State entered spring drills with few big questions on defense. In fact, the Spartans may have the Big Ten’s top defense—again. But the offense still has some big questions to answer after the spring game today. Here are some observations.
1. All eyes were on the offense, which struggled mightily last season for a team that lost five games by a combined 13 points during a disappointing 7-6 season. And, frankly, it didn’t really impress today. Read on.
2. The running back situation remains unsettled, as the Spartans continue to search for a replacement for Le’Veon Bell. This battle figures to be impacted significantly by three incoming freshmen. On this day, Riley Bullough led the way with 46 yards. The burly ex-linebacker may be worthy of being the top back, as he has a physical style that plays well with Dantonio. The big kid may have a role. The other three: Nick Hill had 21, Jeremy Langford 31, Nick Tompkins 43. And none really impressed with a north-south style.
3. The quarterbacks didn’t impress. Andrew Maxwell had ups and downs in his first season as the starter, but he looked OK today in hitting 9-of-20 passes for 110 yards that included a late game-winning 46-yard touchdown toss. But sophomore Connor Cook may have been the best quarterback today, even though he hit just 10-of-26 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown. Redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor seems to be behind Maxwell and Cook, tossing two picks. Bottom line: This quarterback derby will march on into fall camp, when touted freshman Damion Terry enters the mix. After the game, Dantonio said Maxwell remains No. 1 entering the summer. Stay tuned.
4. The receiving has much to prove after an up-and-down 2012 that featured too many drops and big plays. There were too many drops today, too. It’s basically the same cast of characters as last season. Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett got another shot to impress—and he did just that with some nice grabs today. AJ Troup made a nice move en route to scoring the winning touchdown late. Aaron Burbridge was the star with five catches for 113 yards; Keith Mumphrey had five for 40. Bennie Fowler also had some moments. Earlier this spring, Dantonio called out the wideouts and wanted to see more physicality. We saw some today.
5. The defense was supposed to be a strength—and it looked good for the most part—save for that last TD pass allowed. Linebacker Taiwan Jones was all over the field with 11 tackles; end Denzel Drone had two sacks. Max Bullough was, well, Max Bullough. And what’s not to like about two defensive touchdowns? Exactly. Take a bow, Pat Narduzzi.
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.