Spring Football- Week One Roundup

Author's Note: Obviously I'm in debt to the dudes and dudettes wielding the tape recorders, notepads, and press credentials for these quotes. Do them a solid and please click through to these hyperlinks, they're filled with some good stuff.

Week one of MSU's Spring football practices is in the books. Let's recap some of the major storylines:

Are our backup defensive ends as good as everyone says?

Spring Practice Hype is a ritual of these early CFB practices. In past years, I remember swoons over players like Anthony Rashad White, Tony Lippett, Denzel Drone, and Le'Veon Bell, all of whom have so far turned in varying levels of success in their young tenures.

But there's Spring Practice Hype, and then there's, well:

This:

"Shilique has Julian Peterson-type ability,"- Mark Dantonio

This:

Heath "looks just like Will Gholston" -Mark Dantonio

This ($):

"[Calhoun] is as good a defensive end as we've seen around here, and I mean that"- Dan Roushar

This:

"Joel Heath is playing end right now and is really showing great signs. He’s a big man, 280 pounds and he can run." -Pat Narduzzi

And this:

"I feel like that whole [2011] class are freaks athletic-wise... Once they start learning the defense, you’re definitely going to see them start playing and making plays."- Tyler Hoover

Look, I'm pretty skeptical about all this. Skeptical Bruce Lee Gif, show them how skeptical I am:

Photobucket

Thank you. But if actions speak louder than words, the fact that these two jumped up to the second line on the depth chart ahead of various game tested upperclassmen could be a very good sign, as is the fact that the staff felt comfortable enough to move two DEs to other positions (Rush Hoover and Drone).

And a 4-3 defense needs to be able to rotate lineman in order to be really effective. If Heath and Calhoun can spell Gholston and Rush on say, 30% of plays without a big drop-off in production, than that's fantastic. If they can spell them with, as these comments might lead you to believe, hardly any drop off in production, than MSU is winning ALL the titles. I'll await this particular verdict eagerly.

More, after the jump...

OFFENSIVE LINE SMASH

Tell 'em Mark:

"I think this is really the strongest offensive line group we’ve had since we’ve been here," MSU coach Mark Dantonio said Tuesday before the first spring practice of 2012, "and we’ve got numbers."

Yay. Tell 'em Dan:

"It’s just, it looks so different," he said. "They understand what the calls are now. I mean, where we were at least year at this time and really through the first four or five football games … I mean, guys going the wrong way, fundamentals breaking down, we had a lot of internal issues. And not because they weren’t good enough or they weren’t working. They were just so inexperienced. We’re so much further along in that area, and hopefully we continue to have improvement every day."

Yayayay.

Roushar also flipped Burkland from right tackle (where he started last year) to left, under the following logic:

"So I guess kind of looking at the competition, we wanted to have our four best tackles at two spots rather than three at one or slide Henry to the left.""

Leaving the LT 2-deep looking like: France, Burkland.

And the RT 2 deep as: Fonoti, Conway.

I agree with this 100%. As long as Conway is healthy, Burkland always struck me as better for the LT role than the RT. Jack Allen (the Shilique Calhoun of the offensive line in terms of hype) is also apparently hanging tough for the LG or C jobs, but (just my opinion) I'd be surprised if he could unseat Treadwell or especially Jackson. For the first time in quite a while, things are looking very nice along the OL.

Did Dantonio diss Le'Veon Bell?

Ginned up controversy is the helping hand of many a media outlet's sports section. So when, at his first press conference one week ago, Coach D responded to a question about Bell's no. 1 status (per the depth chart and widespread assumption) with terse dickishness because you can do that sometimes when you're really good at your job:

"I think it's important that we're not complacent," he said. "That's my answer. He'll be challenged, as well."

A bevvy of articles immediately came out with variations on the theme of 'Dantonio calls out Bell's complacency'. Now, the discerning mind would notice the 'we're' and 'as well' in that statements to be at least somewhat indicative that fighting complacency should be a team wide attitude. But 'everyone will be challenged' is boilerplate spring practice stuff. Calling out a player by name is much more rare (and thus, newsworthy).

So was it a call out to Bell or a general message to the team? I think you know the answer to this, but Steve Grinczel (among others) sets the story straight with some words from Le'Veon himself,

""Coach D told me it's not really directed toward me, it's directed to everybody - for the running backs, quarterbacks, defensive ends, offensive line, whoever it may be.

"Me too. I can't get complacent about my spot, (because) there are no (guaranteed) spots here. I've got to go out there and earn my right to play. Once I see the complacency issue, I just go out there and strive to get better and just stay hungry."

Are you sure? Is there anyway you could reassure us even more, preferably using variations on words like 'compete' so many times that it's clear the coaching staff has talked about this concept like, a billion times to everyone?

Bell again:

"I feel like I have a bigger role, but at the same time I have to still compete," Bell said. "They're all capable of running the ball. The offensive line is doing a great job, so any back can run the ball in between those holes."

...

Dantonio "is probably just using me as an example because everybody's talking about how I'm the No. 1 guy, but I'm not the No. 1 guy," Bell said. "There are no spots given. Everybody knows they have to earn their spot.

"I feel like I had a good offseason. I got a lot stronger and a lot faster. I'm still getting my health up, and getting treatment (for a mild ankle sprain). I've still got a lot to learn and I'm just competing every day."

Ok. Cool.

Wide Receiver Dropsies Growing Pains

Remember how Keshawn caught like, almost everything thrown his way last year? That was awesome. And Remember how B.J. caught like, everything thrown his way last year? That was awesome too.

But those guys weren't always so sure handed. When they were freshmen and sophomores, I remember a handful of annoying dropped passes from each. Prepare yourself for those sorts of mistakes from the new guys now.

Unless of course, our offensive coordinator can make me feel better about this stuff. Dan?:

"I was watching them closely," Roushar said Friday of the wideouts. "We made a number of mistakes. We're still not catching the ball consistently enough. It'll be an area we have to grow. I think we're going to need the young kids coming in to help us, as well."

YOU'RE NOT MAKING ME FEEL BETTER. HELP TERRY!:

"Receivers coach Terry Samuel said Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery are holding steady with the ones, but he needs everyone to start catching the ball with more consistency. Mumphery, a specimen with speed, said he needs to do a better job of focusing and catching the ball."

Blerg. Remember nearly every receiver goes through this, adjust expectations now, and you can be level headed if (for example) Mumphery drops an easy slant route, and appreciative if he doesn't.

Hondo's gonna Hondo

Imagine the hyperbole thrown about Calhoun and apply it to like, everyone. Hondo is the banana split sundae of MSU reporters: typically enjoyable, and there's usually a little nutritious stuff in there, but it's caught up in a lot of sugary stuff of questionable healthiness. This report is no different. I'm sure he'll be right about a few of these evaluations, I'm also sure he's too much of an optimist even for me.

WE HAVE WALK-ONS. I REPEAT, WE HAVE WALK-ONS OUT OF NOWHERE.

Andrew Gleichert at tight end, showed up at the #2 spot on the tight end depth chart. Roushar was, "impressed" with him, while Dion applauded his attitude:

"He's very aggressive," Sims said. "He plays with a lot of intensity."

And as for Jakubik check out that spotless msu profile.

Terry Samuels called him, "hungry", and Dantonio said he's "shown different things" at the WR spot. Maxwell also name checked him unprompted. What does all that mean? LOL, IDK.

QB Competition? + Maxwell feel-goods.

Maybe? via Rexrode:

"That guy’s gonna push, he’s gonna compete for that job," Roushar said of Cook. "I can see that."

But in the same article, like, naaaah:

"The mental part of the game, he’s just head and shoulders above me with the mental part because he’s been here four years," Cook said of Maxwell. "He knows all the blitzes, protections, alerts, checks and combos and all that.

In an offense like MSU, against some of the defenses the team will have to face, that stuff is all really, really, important. Connor Cook is a good player. He'll get his shot. But all the coach speak in the world won't convince me he'll beat out Andrew Maxwell in a straight up competition by opening day. I'd wager all of my meager blogger credibility on it.

Elsewhere, Maxwell eats leader beans for breakfast:

"He's a great guy, a very humble guy," said center Travis Jackson said. "There is no better person to handle the fame. He's such a humble guy and a hard worker and we love having him in the locker room."

has the backing of his head coach:

"He came here as a highly-recruited young man, and from day one he impressed. So it wasn't the type of thing where we had to sort of sit there and say, 'Well, hopefully he gets good enough.' He's come here with an idea that he can be the guy, and this is his time. It's going to be very exciting to watch."

And is familiar with his receiving corps from their scout team days:

"I feel like the chemistry I have with this receiver corps is better than if B.J. (Cunningham) or Keshawn (Martin) had another year," Maxwell said. "Our chemistry is something we can build on."

In Conclusion

Well, that's the wrap up. Some of this is older news, and some of it is newer, but we mostly haven't talked about it here. SO LETS TALK ABOUT IT. You know, in the comments.

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