OK, I think I've basked in the delicious marinade of Tuesday night's smackdown enough. On that front, let's hope the team doesn't forget tomorrow's game at Nebraska, the Huskers played us tough the first time and nothing in this conference is free. I'll probably postpone the offensive skill positions until after the next two basketball games, since whatever happens we'll have most of next week to worry about going to OSU and UM back-to-back and this might be a nice distraction if Tuesday night goes badly.
Anyway, my positional speculation continues today with the guys other than offensive linemen that we only talk about when they're making mistakes:
Starter (returning): Mike Sadler, RJr
Backups: Kevin Muma, RSr
Muma, at least, is listed as the backup punter. But Sadler's the man at this position. Regardless of what the media thinks, Sadler was the best punter in the conference last year and should continue that excellence in his third year as the starter. Now that he'll be a junior, I suppose it's worth starting the search for the next guy, but as far as I know the staff isn't looking at any high school punters this year, at least not this early and not for scholarship. More kicking discussion to follow.
Starter (projected): Kevin Muma, RSr
Backup: Michael Geiger, Fr; Evan Fischer, RFr
I'll admit I have no idea who's going to win the competition to replace Dan Conroy. Geiger's the top kicking prospect in the nation, and this is one of the few positions that doesn't exactly demand a season in the weight room or reading the playbook.
Nonetheless, Muma's going into his fifth year in the program, is already/has been on campus to show coach Tressel what he can do, and was a pretty well-regarded placekicker out of high school himself. Win or lose, Muma will most likely hang on to the kickoff job, but I'm rooting for him to take this job as well; it just seems kind of a shame for a quality, instate kid to be relegated to kickoffs his entire career. Unless Geiger shows up for fall camp and blows the other kickers out of the water, I'd be fine with redshirting Geiger this season, giving Muma his turn. Geiger can then slide in for a four-year career and have plenty of opportunity to break some records and fire up the Geiger Counter.
Something else to keep in mind is that Conroy himself was a walk-on who beat out Muma for the kicking job. Ergo, don't sleep on Evan Fischer, a local kid out of Holt, to insert himself into the discussion. Kevin Cronin of Traverse City also redshirted as a walk-on last year and could get a look.
Starter (returning): Taybor Pepper, So
Backups: Leland Ewing, RFr
Here's another position you don't think about much until things are going really, really wrong. For a true freshman, Pepper was (in my recollection) pretty serviceable last season. A few of Conroy's misses have been attributed to either bad snaps or bad holds, same with some of Sadler's shorter punts. Long snapper is a position where you can expect improvement over time just by virtue of reps at practice, so it's fair to expect improved performance from Pepper in 2013.
By the way, I don't want us to forget the guy who well might have been last year's, and this year's, starter, Steve Moore. This is the most recent article I could find about him: http://www.msuspartans.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/081012aad.html
Although Moore's playing career is over, his name was still listed on the most recent roster I could find, and I expect at some point this season the crowd at Spartan Stadium will get their chance to applaud his recovery as he walks onto the field as an honorary captain.
Starter (returning): Andre Sims, Jr., RSo
Backups: Nick Hill, RJr; DeAnthony Arnett, Jr
Sims, Jr. took the punt return job from Hill midway through the season last year after Hill had some trouble fielding punts cleanly. With the number of bodies competing for snaps at receiver, this might be Sims Jr.'s best way to make an impact. However, the rest of the punt return team last year did such a poor job blocking for the most part that Sims Jr. often didn't do much but call for the fair catch. It's true that a dynamic punt returner can make some things happen on his own, but regardless of who's actually fielding the ball, the return team has to improve before we can expect improved returns.
Starter (returning?): Nick Hill, RJr
Backups: Jeremy Langford, RJr; Justin Williams, Fr
Here, also, the picture is really guesswork at this point. Hill probably has the inside track to get at least a share of the carries at RB. If he's able to hang on to them, I would expect the staff to find someone else to bring kicks back. But, maybe they won't. Hill's been awfully good in this capacity. If it's not him, straight-line speed is the most important characteristic in a kick returner. So far as I know, Langford, the 'fastest guy on the team' according to every mention the coaches have ever made of him, and incoming recruit Justin Williams are the two fastest guys we'll have. Nonetheless, I'd expect pretty much every RB, WR and DB to be mentioned as a possibility back here if Hill is off taking No. 1 tailback snaps.
The second returner for most of last year was Larry Caper, now out of eligibility. The staff will thus need to find another capable runner and blocking threat to stand next to whoever the designated speedster back there ends up being. The Kyler Elsworth experiment as a lead blocker there appears to have been put back in whatever folder of goofy ideas it was originally found in, especially after Nebraska was able to kick at him so easily (seriously, what is with our coaching gaffes against Nebraska?).