MSU 1st Fall Scrimmage Round-Up

Blegh. No video, only bits and peices of a box score, bleghblowblah. We're making lemonade out of some tiny, extra-sour, lemons on this one, folks. As always, don't take any preseason chatter or stats too seriously, but enjoy the fact that your team is taking real, live, football snaps in real, live, football-type situations, and apparently looking pretty good doing it.

Maxwell with improvement, but still a lot of room to grow

If you really want to simplify QB performances down to one factor, Yards per Attempt is a nice place to start. As a solid measure of QB efficiency, you can basically grade out four types of QBs. There are quarterbacks who are neither accurate (low completion percentage) nor explosive (low yards per completion), who are very inefficient (Think 2011 Rob Bolden), we'll call them Type A QBs. There are quarterbacks who are accurate but not very explosive (Think 2011 Dan Persa), Type B QBs. There are quarterbacks who are inaccurate but very explosive (Think 2011 Denard Robinson), Type C QBs. And then there are quarterbacks who are both accurate and explosive, and thus very efficient (Think 2011 Russell Wilson), Type D QBs.

In limited snaps in 2010, Andrew Maxwell had a type A stat-line. He made a couple big throws but not nearly enough to make up for the check downs, and was very inaccurate. But, he was a red-shirt freshman, so no big deal.

He had a good preseason last year, maybe even statistically outplaying Cousins (who was notoriously lousy in scrimmages compared to his actual game performances). In limited snaps in real games last year, he improved himself to a type B stat-line, completing a high percentage of passes even if those throws didn't necessarily go for a bunch of yards. Acceptable improvement.

Which brings us to this preseason. Maxwell improved in his first Fall scrimmage from the unimpressive performance of his first spring scrimmage, but 55%/10 Yards per Completion still likely isn't going to cut it vs Boise State. You can win with a Type B, C, or D quarterback, but a team will be hard pressed to pull out victories with a type A at the helm. Whether it's by completing more short throws, or connecting on a few longer bombs (or both), Maxwell has a lot of room to become a higher efficiency quarterback, and his progress on that front should say quite a bit about how far this team goes.

The Andrew Maxwell Preseason Extrapolatorium
Game Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att TD Int
Spring Practice 11 6 54.55% 57 5.18 1 2
Fall Practice 29 16 55.17% 162 5.59 0 0
Practice Averages 40 22 55.00% 219 5.48 1 2

The two disclaimers are thus: 1. They might not be able to hit him, but this is still likely one of the best D's he sees all year, and 2. He is, and has been, generally good at taking care of the ball. I don't think he needs to throw a lot of TDs this year, but he absolutely cannot throw a bunch of INTs if the team wants to get to the Rose Bowl, or further. The good news on that front is that his second scrimmage showed marked reduction in his interception percentage from the first scrimmage, and he's been flawless during the real games, with 0 interceptions in 51 career snaps so far.

More after the jump...

Defensive Aggression

I had so much fun watching this defense pin its ears back and go after teams last year, that in the back of my mind this off-season, there's been this little worry like, "Man, what if, without Worthy and Pickelman holding down the middle of the line, and without a three year veteran patrolling the center-field like Trenton Robinson, this defense has to play more vanilla and less aggressive than last year's?" A relatively laid back game plan in the Green-White game kept this small ember of worry alight.

I probably don't have anything to worry about.

Sacks from a safety and a linebacker, with other tackles for loss from two other linebackers (and plenty of other TFLs and penetration from the team's defensive tackles and ends), combined with similar aggressive stats from preseason scrimmages, should mean the Spartan D will be on the attack again this year.

Injuries and Opportunities

Blake Treadwell was held out with an injury and replaced by Jack Allen (who coaches have been raving about all year). Without seeing any specific video, it doesn't seem like he contributed so much as to steal a starting job from Treadwell just yet (Bell with only 4.08 yards per carry, for example), but this is a position battle to keep you eyes on throughout the week.

Norman was also held out of the scrimmage (and if anyone remembers last year's Nebraska game, Norman's absence can loom large on this defense). Taiwan Jones has retaken the #2 STAR linebacker spot behind Norman from RS freshman Darien Harris for now, but both of them performed well in the scrimmage and their vastly different body types (Harris is SS sized, while Jones is almost MLB sized) might lead to them being plugged in at different times vs pass heavy teams or run heavy teams.

Burbridge continues to be held out with no update on his status. There was, I think, some overreaction to this injury on Twitter and the like ("State's top rated recruit out with injury, big blow for MSU!'), and as someone who thought Burbridge was very likely to get a RS this year, it's a bummer that he's hurt, but like, whatever, these things happen. Him getting qualified was a big deal, him getting hurt, not nearly as big of a deal (particularly if it doesn't happen to keep him off the practice field all year). In his absence, two players each had a big catch on MSU's 2nd and 3rd teams in the scrimmage, with Jeremy Langford catching a 38 yard TD pass, and walk-on Tres Barksdale grabbing a 30 yard TD (Coach D: "I WANT my CORNERS!")

The Rule is still the Rule

When looking at these Fall scrimmages (like all inter-squad games), you ideally want competitive scores, or, at the least, you want each side of the ball to be making big plays, but very few players to be making stupid or bad plays. One-sided beat downs (as we saw in the first Spring Scrimmage) can mean that one side of the ball is just especially, especially, elite, but more likely than not, it just points to persistent flaws on the other side of the ball.

I, and everyone else, can and should expect the MSU defense to get the best of most of these scrimmages, but it's important that the offense at least consistently holds their own. And while this game was certainly slanted towards the defense (with a couple big turnovers, a goal-line stand, and some plays in the backfield), the offense appeared to provide decent blocking, the passing game made a couple big plays down-field and only threw the one INT, and Bell had a consistent, if workmanlike, day running the ball for the 1st team. If the offense shows steady improvement as the preseason goes on, and keep turnovers out of their game, I'll be feeling very good about our home opener.

Also, two made field goals, no mentions of missed field goals. Plus, via Dantonio:

"There were a couple of penalties early on, but the rest of the scrimmage was pretty clean. There weren't many center-quarterback exchange issues and there were only two turnovers in 150-plus plays..."

Yeaaaaaah, buddy. 18 days.

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