Michigan State Preview

What to watch on offense

Mark Dantonio is in his 7th year at Michigan State has finally brought something to Sparty that they haven’t had in a long time, consistency. After years of mediocre and losing seasons the Spartans have reached a bowl game in each of Dantonio’s 6 seasons. The Spartans added co-offensive coordinators but have maintained the same power running attack that Dantonio’s teams have been known for throughout the years.

After 2 seasons the Spartans are still searching for a QB to replace Kirk Cousins who posted a 28-12 record as a starter. Longtime heir apparent Andrew Maxwell gave way to Connor Cook shortly after the season started and has posted better than average numbers. The Spartan passing game is still a weak spot despite the presence of WRs Bennie Fowler, Aaron Burbridge, and Macgarrett Kings Jr.

After losing La’Veon Bell to the draft Sparty has turned to junior Jeremy Langford to carry the load at RB. Langford, who like many of the backs on the Spartan roster, didn’t see a ton of carries behind Bell has blossomed into playmaker at RB. At 6’0 206lbs, Langford is tough to tackle and has a great mix of speed and power.

The Spartan’s offensive line was decimated by injuries a year ago and while they lose their best linemen, they return the services of seniors Travis Jackson and Fou Fonoti. Returning 4 players with starting experience, though this is one of the smallest offensive lines the Spartans have had under Dantonio weight wise.

Best Offensive Player

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Mark Dantonio Press Conference Notes

Notes from Mark Dantonio Tuesday Press Conference (10/29)

Opening statement: “In this state you either grow up green or you grow up blue … Its a game we point timageo every year. Great rivalry game … They have a great football team, this game, the stakes get higher, has a meaning with bowl implications. Will be a great football game. A hard hitting game with a lot of emotion.”

On the toughness: “I’m going to worry about our football team. That game in 2011 was a tough game with a lot of emotion. Things spun out of control a little bit. We are going to play tough and within the rules and the refs have to control the game.”

On Devin Gardner: “I think that our feelings are that Devin Gardner can make a lot of plays in space and run though a  lot of tackles.  They do a lot of things that didn’t do with Denard. They run more of a power game now than prior to. A key component game will be controlling his running game and throwing to Gallon and Funchess.”

On Gardner vs. Robinson: “They are both excellent players, can’t refute what Denard Robinson was able to do in his career.”

Respect for Brady Hoke: “Just because you like someone in the family, doesn’t mean you like the entire family. I have great respect for Brady and his coaching abilities.”

On having Michigan in-state: “We’ve got great programs throughout he Midwest. We compete with Michigan every single day whether recruiting or for funding. I’ve never really thought about it like that. It is what it is. Based on my count, we’re up.”

On match-up problems Funchess creates: “A big body receiver down the field. A mismatch Tight end that can be moved around and they do. Has great hands with power. I think he’s a big part of their offense. Big time plays.”

On the four wins in a row making it a rivalry: “For it truly to a be rivalry. It can’t be one sided. When its more competitive, things take on a new meaning. Need to back up words.”

On Michigan paying for skywriting: “I did see that they had paid for it. What can you say. Why get me started. You guys know the drill.”

Anything positive from losing last year: “When you look at 2012, in all of the football games we played, they were so close. We just ran out of time. We took one on the chin vs. them and credit U of M for that. I was very proud of our team, but we came up short. I thought it was a great, tough, hard-nosed football game.”

Gold symbols on jerseys in practice: “An opportunity to look at different jerseys for next year. That was for Nike.”

On Connor Cook: “I think he is resilient. I have a lot of confidence in him. How high can he go. It will be exciting for him and he’ll have a lot of anxiety. After the first snap, you have to get down to playing the game.”

Does Michigan have an identity: “Winning. They find a way to win. Their defense flies around. They give up 90 yards a game running. A well coached team. They want to run power football. That’s toughness, they will go at you, they are right on. Football is a physical game. If you have two opponents putting on their best performances, physicality is involved.”

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Central Michigan Preview

What to watch on offense

A longtime disciple of Mark Dantonio, Dan Enos has made his bones on the offensive side of the football. Enos served as Dantonio’s QB coach at both Cincinnati and Michigan State in addition to holding several offensive coordinator roles prior toZurlon Tipton CBS Sports joining Dantonio. Enos prefers a varied offensive attack but his roots are deeply planted in the pro-style offense. As the offense of a year ago showed however, Enos is perfectly willing to use multiple WR sets and throw the ball at a high clip.

Ryan Radcliff leaves Mt. Pleasant after compiling a statistical career only surpassed by Dan LeFevour. In his wake were left a number of contenders for the starting QB position have battled it out throughout both spring and fall camps. Cincinnati transfer Kody Kater was the odds on favorite to win the job despite the presence of the speedy Alex Niznak. Kater was named the starter just prior to game week and his experience and arm strength make him a potential breakout player for the Chips this season. Kater will be aided greatly by the return of 2nd team All-MAC WR Titus Davis who accounted for over 800yds and 8 TDs a year ago. They also return the speed Courtney Williams who will be relied upon to the stretch the defense across from Davis.

The Chips owe much of the success of last season to RB Zurlon Tipton who produced a monster season on the ground. Despite rushing for over 1,500yds a year ago, Tipton surprisingly did not earn 1st team All-MAC honors, a feat he will likely contend for greatly this season. While he isn’t the fastest back in the country, Tipton is an extremely tough runner that is difficult to bring down with just one tackler. The Chips also return super sophomore Saylor Lavallii who average 4.6ypc a year ago as a true freshman.

Central Michigan had produced exactly one first round draft choice prior to last year and the emergence of OT Eric Fisher who went on to become the #1 overall pick in the draft. Lost in the love fest with Fisher is the fact that prior to last season, it was Jake Olson who received much of the praise from observers at the LT position. An early season injury forced Olson out of the lineup a year ago but he returns to lead a unit that while low on starts, has a good amount of overall experience. The Chips are expected to start just one underclassmen on the offensive line.

Best Offensive Player

Zurlon Tipton- Tipton is coming off of the one of the best rushing seasons ever in Chippewa history after rushing for over 1,500yds and scoring 19 TDs on the ground. A load 6’1 220lbs, Tipton has a knack for breaking tackles and extending runs deep into the second level.

Head Coach– Dan Enos- 4th Year

Off Coor– Mike Cummings-3rd Year

 

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2012 Game Preview – Little Brother

What to watch on offense

Mark Dantonio is a defensive coach by trade and he puts a lot of trust in his offensive assistants to handle the day to day operation of the offense. Don Treadwell presided over a very effective offense before leaving to take the Miami (OH) HC job. Dan Roushar seMark Dantonio - ESPN.comrved as Dantonio’s offensive line coach for six years before taking over the offense last season. Dantonio’s teams have always believed in establishing the run first through a power running attack. The Spartans have opened up the offense on a more regular basis the past 2 seasons, throwing the ball more than 60% of the time. Physically beating up opposing defenses remains a hallmark of the Spartan offense however despite the success in the passing game.

Kirk Cousins left Michigan State as its all-time leading passer, handing the reigns to the much hyped Andrew Maxwell. A junior, Maxwell is Michigan State’s most highly touted QB recruit in recent memory and was groomed behind Cousins the last two years. Maxwell has had his share of ups and downs this season completing just 54% of his passes with 6 TDs and 4 interceptions. Michigan State’s struggles in the passing game can be attributed to more than just Maxwell. The loss of B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin has affected the Spartans more than most anticipated. The Spartans have no “go to” WR and have struggled to find playmakers outside. Keith Mumphery leads the way with 25 catches on the year and more than 300yds. True freshman Aaron Burbridge has come on strong in recent weeks accounting for 13 catches and 223yds in the last 2 weeks.

The Spartan offense is led by 6’2 238 lb Junior Le’Veon Bell who has taken over as the sole bread winner at RB this season. Bell is regarded as a legitimate 1st or 2nd round NFL prospect. Bell has surprising quick feet for a big back and his receiving skills make him an enticing outlet out of the backfield. Bell got off to an incredible fast start this season and though the first six games he sits at 916yds with 8 TDs. Bell has already racked up a ridiculous 200 carries in just the first six games and is on pace to carry the ball over 400 times this season.

The Spartans returned 4 starters on the offensive line but quickly saw two of them fall to injury. Michigan State has been forced to use a patchwork offensive line since injuries to guard Fou Fonoti and center Travis Jackson and the results haven’t been pleasant. Redshirt freshman Jack Allen has taken over under center and has experienced a trial by fire.

Best Offensive Player

La’Veon Bell- The most talented Spartan RB since TJ Duckett, Bell is a load to bring down and has the kind of burst and vision that make NFL scouts drool. Bell’s most underrated feature may be his hands. Bell recorded 267yds receiving as a junior.

Head Coach– Mark Dantonio-6th Year

Off Coor– Dan Roushar-2nd Year

Def Coor– Pat Narduzzi-6 Year

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Big Ten Speed: Adapt and Survive

Urban Meyer - The Lantern

Urban Meyer probably didn’t make a lot of friends last week when speaking about the Big Ten conference in comparison to the SEC. Speaking candidly, Meyer had no problem giving his diagnosis for why the Big Ten has not fared very well in bowl games and big out-of-conference games in recent years. When asked about the major difference between the Big Ten and SEC Meyer responded:

“Overall team speed. I notice it on special teams. In spring practice I noticed that,” Meyer said. “So I just think overall athleticism right now we’re a little bit behind.”

Ouch. After ruffling the Bret Bielema’s feathers this past spring, Meyer will have certainly removed himself from the annual coaches Christmas card list. In addition to chiding the Big Ten for its lack of speed, Meyer went to say that while the Big Ten conference was once the #1 conference in the country, it has lost that spot to the SEC. So much for conference pride and loyalty huh?

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