MSU spring practice gets started with new look, questions
The basketball season ended less than a week ago for Michigan State, and now the spring football season will get underway today.
Unlike the past couple years, MSU has quite a new look to its team, especially the offense. This will make for an intriguing spring with plenty of storylines.
For the next month, until the spring game on April 28, Michigan State will be practicing and getting to see what this team will look like heading into the 2012 season.
Here are five questions I have going into spring, and things I will be paying close attention to:
1. How does Andrew Maxwell adjust to being QB1?
Maxwell is in the middle of his third year in the program, and for the first time, he will enter spring practice as the starting quarterback. How he does stepping into a leadership role this spring and how he and the new receiving corp mesh will dictate lot of the perception around the Spartans heading into the fall.
All eyes will be on the QB as he adjusts to the spotlight, and it will be a big one because for the first time in a while, it isn’t No. 8 under center. Ideally, poise and confidence will be there from day one and silence doubts or concerns from fans.
2. Who emerges from a bunch of young defensive lineman?
The Spartans lost All-American Jerel Worthy to the NFL a year early, and behind him is little experience, but plenty of raw talent. Anthony Rashad White does not fall into the category of youth, and he is expected to start. Micajah Reynolds remains in the mix after a strong showing in bowl practices last year. Tyler Hoover, moving over from defensive end, could vie for playing time. The youth at the DT position is led by James Kittredge, who started on the offensive line at Vanderbilt before transferring to MSU. He will be a redshirt sophomore. Brandon Clemons and Matt Ramondo also figure to be in the mix, and it might not be out of the question that Blake Treadwell slides back over to the d-line.
At the defensive end position, Damon Knox, Joel Heath and Shilique Calhoun all have drawn rave reviews from the Spartans staff and are fighting for playing time. How good are these three redshirt freshmen? Junior Denzel Drone has been moved to tight end for spring practice, and maybe beyond — which could be very reflective of just what the coaching staff sees in the younger players.
3. Who wins the battle to replace Trenton Robinson?
The list begins with Kurtis Drummond, who played very well as a nickelback last season. It continues with Jairus Jones and R.J. Williamson. Drummond likely is the leader, but Jones and Williamson could make a push behind him. It should be a close battle through the spring.
Those who do not win playing time at safety will compete for the nickelback spot. Arjen Colquhoun and Trae Waynes could figure into this spot, as could incoming freshman Demetrious Cox once the fall arrives.
4. What does the offensive line look like?
With Skyler Burkland back healthy, MSU has a nice little problem on its offensive line — options. MSU allowed the second-fewest sacks in the Big Ten last season, despite having a patchwork line for the first half of the year.
Burkland figures to slot back in at right tackle, replacing Fou Fonoti. Fonoti would seem the likely candidate to slide into Joel Foreman’s old spot at left guard, while Chris McDonald (RG), Dan France (LT) and Travis Jackson (C) round out the line. Fonoti could be pushed by redshirt freshman Donavan Clark, who was highly recruited and the staff liked a lot last season.
5. How healthy are the wide receivers and who is stepping up?
Bennie Fowler and Juwan Caesar are coming off injuries, and both are expected to contribute at WR this year. Tony Lippett, Keith Mumphery and Andre Sims Jr. all will have good reps this spring, as will Dana Dixon who moved over to WR from CB. DeAnthony Arnett, of course, will be worth paying close attention to, but more off the field in most respects because of the waiver that will be filed to see if he will be eligible this fall.
It would seem the ideal mix for MSU this spring features Fowler and Lippett as the X and Y receivers, with Arnett in the slot. Time till tell how that plays out. Caesar, in my mind, is the wild card. His tape from high school is impressive and he looks like a B.J. Cunningham type receiver.
As for what to expect from The Little Brother Blog, position by position breakdowns are on the docket (likely to be one per week), and consistent updates about position battles on the field. Keep in mind, this also is a time where recruits come to campus to check out a practice, which also culminates with the spring game — and a big time for the staff to secure commitments.
Lots happening in East Lansing and I don’t know about you, but Boise State already is on my mind.