Many things in East Lansing are uncertain heading into the 2013 season, but one thing is for sure: 7-6 isn’t good enough.
The Michigan State Spartans entered last season as the defending champs in the Legends division and had high hopes of repeating that title. Then, everything went wrong and the Spartans had to win their final game of the year just to salvage a bowl berth.
That win, against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, was their only one within the Legends division.
Once Michigan State had locked up a bowl bid, they did in fact win it, but even that was a small consolation prize for fans.
Now MSU faces the challenge of regaining the moxie they had in the Kirk Cousins era, an era in which they beat the Michigan Wolverines four straight times. This feat had not been accomplished in nearly 30 years, and if things continue down the same road for MSU, it may not happen again for another 30.
Michigan State heads into the 2013 season having lost their star player, Le’Veon Bell, to the NFL Draft. The Spartans will have to dig deep to fill those shoes that carried the ball 382 times for 1,793 yards in 2012.
The Spartans really have nobody with any experience to step in for Bell, but junior running back Nick Hill will most likely get the first crack at the job. Second to Bell in carries last year with 21, Hill also returned kicks and punts for MSU and has some speed. Fumbles, however, are an issue for Hill.
Second in line may be junior Jeremy Langford, who at 6-foot-0, 205 pounds, is much bigger than the 5-foot-8 Hill. And keep an eye on incoming freshman Delton Williams. Williams was one of MSU’s top recruits and was rated as the #45 athlete by ESPN. He played primarily running back in high school and is a big, versatile guy who could make an impact right away.
Quarterback Andrew Maxwell took a lot of heat last year before finally being benched in the bowl game against TCU. Redshirt freshman Connor Cook became the signal-caller for the Spartans at that point, and led his team to the win. Has a quarterback competition begun? I certainly believe so. Even though Cook looked average against TCU, he did throw the game-winning touchdown.
A quarterback competition may be good for the team as a whole, and might wake Maxwell up. I think he is talented enough to be the starter, but Cook has scrambling ability and Maxwell does not. The offensive line couldn’t protect the quarterback last year, and with no OL recruits coming in that will make an immediate impact, pass protection will once again be an issue.
If you can’t block, you have to put somebody back there that can scramble, and that isn’t Andrew Maxwell.
But it might not be Connor Cook either.
Incoming freshman Damion Terry is a dual threat quarterback that ESPN ranked as the 13th best in the country. A four-star recruit, Terry may walk onto campus and right into a competition for the starting QB spot.
Whoever the Spartans start at quarterback, they have to get better offensively. In addition to issues at quarterback, Michigan State had problems catching the ball in 2012. Many players suffered from a case of the drops, especially in the first half of the season. With the with receiver position wide open, spring practice is a huge opportunity for one or two guys to step up into the lead wideout role.
Personally, I like Keith Mumphery and Aaron Burbridge to be those guys who step up. Transfer DeAnthony Arnett was in the doghouse for much of last season, but he deserves an opportunity in 2013.
The defense will be stout, but the offense will have to block and catch at a much higher level in 2013 than they did in 2012. If the offensive woes continue, a 7-6 season may be towards the high end of the Spartans’ potential.
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