The 2012 Big 10 football seasons was one of the most disappointing seasons in the Mark Dantonio era and Michigan State football history. There have been many seasons Spartan fans can point out as painful ones, but this one might be the worst because the expectations were so high going into the the season, and the Spartans were a let down.
Well, not all of the Spartans. The offense was the major let down for the Spartan faithful in East Lansing. From the very start of the season, they struggled to even complete a first down play and could not meet the production of their monster defense.
Everyone in football knew replacing players like Kirk Cousins, B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin, Keith Nichol and Brian Linthicum would be difficult, but nobody knew it would go as bad as it did.
The Spartans finished ninth in scoring offense on the year, only scoring a weak 19.9 points per game. They were also ninth in the conference in total offense, only managing 352.9 yards per game on the season. If the Spartans want to remain competing for Big Ten championships, these numbers have to increase immensely.
Andrew Maxwell returns in 2013 as the starting quarterback, which may come as a disappointment to some. Either way you look at it, he is a fifth year senior with a year of starting experience under his belt. The skill players have improved, so he is going to get a shot.
His leash will be short though, with back up quarterbacks Connor Cook and Tyler O’Connor competing viciously for a spot. Cook replaced Maxwell late in their Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl victory over TCU.
At the skill positions, it will be filled with many young players yet again. For the running backs, while Nick Hill was listed as the starter in spring, there is no chance he wins the job. Riley Bullough moved from linebacker in an experience that showed some promise but isn’t the long term answer. Freshman Gerald Holmes and R.J. Shelton will compete for time immediately.
At wide receiver, sophomore Aaron Burbridge looks to become a star receiver in the Big 10. He didn’t get into the mix until late last year due to injury, and was still the best receiver by far. This position needs to improve on its consistency in catching the ball due to far too many drops.
As for the offensive line, there are many players with starting experience returning but the loss of tackle Skyler Burkland retiring due to injuries. The Spartans will hope the line can stay away from the injury bug that has plagued them year after year so they can protect Maxwell longer.