Musing Through the MSU Depth Chart

I may be a basketball-inclined college sports blogger, but I could certainly have done with less basketball-related news over this past MSU sports blogging offseason.  It's made for great traffic and commenting levels, but it's also induced way too much offseason stress and introduced too many question marks for the the upcoming basketball season.

I'm going to go ahead and declare the Offseason of Tumult over.  (I presume all individuals associated with MSU athletics will recognize my authority in this area and adhere to the edict.)  After all, we've got a real, live regular season football depth chart now.  And real, live Spartan sports action is less than 100 hours away.

Joe Rexrode has already covered the major data points to be gleaned from the depth chart.  Building off his work, here are my own musings:

  • Very nice to not have an "OR" at the quarterback spot this fall.  I'm a numbers guy, so I don't tend to put a lot of stock in intangibles, but having a clear leader at the quarterback spot has to be worth something.
  • Making Andrew Maxwell the back-up quarterback is absolutely the right move.  In the horrific scenario that Kirk Cousins goes down for the season, the coaching staff would no doubt take a hard look at moving Keith Nichol back to quarterback and making him the starter.  Short of that, having a back-up quarterback who's spending his 100% of his time focused on the position is what you want.
  • Four co-starters at the two receiver spots: B.J. Cunningham, Mark Dell, Keshawn Martin, Nichol.  I'd think Cunningham and Dell are the favorites to see the most playing time in two-WR sets, as they continue to work themselves back into Mark Dantonio's good graces from the dorm assault incident.  (Martin and Nichol were listed as the only starters on the spring depth chart.)  Martin and Nichol will certainly see lots of time on the field, though.  The trick play options when both of them are on the field are almost limitless.  I'm thinking flea-flicker/throw-back/reverse/option-pass.
  • Four tight tends who will contribute.  We knew that already, of course.
  • Le'Veon Bell is the only tailback listed behind Edwin Baker and Larry Caper.  As noted by LVS in his post on the rushing game, Bell looks tantalizingly goalline-backish at 6'2", 230 pounds.  Caper is expected to play against Western despite suffering some sort of arm/wrist injury that has him wearing a cast.
  • I'd forgotten about Fred Smith moving to fullback.  He's the back-up behind Josh Rouse.
  • Offensive line had already pretty much shaken itself out.  He locked up the position early and hasn't gotten a lot of attention of late (very likely a good thing), but I still think D.J. Young may be the most important player on this team, protecting Cousins' backside.  Young's a senior, but he's also going into just his second season as an active MSU player after transferring from Bowling Green.  Hopefully, his experience at right tackle last season translates well to the left side.
  • The depth chart reinforces how young the defensive line is: Of the 12 players listed are, 8 are freshmen or sophomores.  We'll be watching one of those young linemen just a little more than the others: William Gholston is listed as the back-up (behind co-starters) at the "RUSH" end position.  Three "OR"s among the 4 defensive line spots, so lots of opportunities for people to make themselves factors.  Blake Treadwell is questionable for Saturday's game with a leg injury.
  • No surprises at linebacker or in the secondary.  Lots of freshmen once you get past the starters in the defensive backfield.  (Sidenote: After the disaster that was the MSU pass defense last season, who would have thought that the weakest Big Ten secondary in the state would reside in Ann Arbor?)
  • Final "OR" is at placekicker: Dan Conroy and Kevin Muma.  Barring catastrophe, there should be a couple of weeks to sort that out before there's the potential for a game-deciding field goal attempt.

Final bit: Rexrode reports that the team has something called a "unity council": a group of 12 players from which the 4th weekly rotating captain will be selected (joining Cousins, Greg Jones, and Aaron Bates).  Sounds a little too much like a part of a communist leadership apparatus, but anything that helps keep the entire roster on the straight and narrow off the field is a good thing in my book.

On that note, we've come full circle back to off-the-field/court tumult.  Let the games begin!

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