A history of #AMSUOLHG and its future

Gregory Shamus

Update: After initially denying the Burkland report, MSU announced Tuesday Burkland is officially retiring due to injuries. Moore is attempting a comeback and was the No. 3 longsnapper in the preseason depth chart. And MSU did not get Jamarco Jones, who chose Ohio State. Womp.

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Since Mark Dantonio took over at MSU in 2007, he has produced an NFL Draft pick at every non-special teams position, except for one.

QB - Kirk Cousins
RB - Javon Ringer, Edwin Baker, Le'Veon Bell
WR - Devin Thomas, Keshawn Martin, B.J. Cunningham
TE - Kellen Davis, Dion Sims
DL - Ervin Baldwin, William Gholston, Jerel Worthy
LB - Greg Jones
CB - Jeremy Ware, Chris L. Rucker.
S - Trenton Robinson

The only position missing here is offensive line. On first glance, you would assume MSU doesn't recruit good offensive linemen and can't develop them. But that's not totally true. Enter our friend #AMSUOLHG (Angry MSU Offensive Lineman-Hating God), a relative of Iowa's famed #AIRBHG

Since 2006 (one year before Mark Dantonio), MSU has recruited five offensive linemen rated four stars or better. Here's how they fared.

--Jason Diehl (2006) - Enrolled early in 2006 and had knee surgery right away. Retired from football prior to 2007.

--Nate Klatt (2009) - Broke his foot in spring 2011. Was medically DQ'd earlier this year due to concussions.

--David Barrent (2009) - The highest-rated OL recruit under Dantonio, Barrent underwent back surgery in 2009 and played seven games on special teams in 2010 before taking a medical DQ in 2011 due to back problems.

--Blake Treadwell (2009) - Missed three games in 2010 with a "lower leg injury", suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2011 and earned a medical redshirt. Missed the first four games of 2012 due to a knee injury.

--Skyler Burkland (2010) - Fractured/dislocated his left ankle in the third game of 2011 and missed the rest of the year. Reportedly has taken a medical DQ.

So the top recruits are all getting hurt. What about some other guys?

--Arthur Ray Jr. (2007) - Diagnosed with cancer before arriving on campus. Beat it and made a start in 2011. Transferred to Fort Lewis College to get some playing time late in his career.

--Joel Foreman (2007) - Retired from football following his MSU career due to injuries, forgoing a potential pro career.

--Zach Heuter (2008) - Missed the 2009 and 2010 seasons with shoulder injuries, then took a medical DQ.

--Henry Conway (2009) - Missed the 2010 season with a neck injury and has struggled to get on the field since.

--Steve Moore (2010) - Set to be the starting long-snapper in 2012, Moore suffers a neck injury after jumping off a boat in the summer, retires from football.

2012 - With what should be the best OL under Dantonio, starting RT Fou Fonoti suffers season-ending injury prior to Week 3, starting C Travis Jackson suffers a season-ending injury in the Big Ten opener.

2013 - Riley Norman, a top lineman recruit, chooses MSU... for track and field and decides not to play football. MSUDersh figures it was for self-preservation

So basically,

There's no real reason for it. You can never predict injuries. It's just a string of bad luck. OK, a rope of bad luck. Yes, I saw some tweets at 2014 recruit Jamarco Jones from people saying he'll get injured at MSU. Of course, you can't prove something like that, but you have to imagine other coaches point that out on the recruiting trail.

If Michigan's program becomes one of the Big Ten's best again, it will be because of all the highly-ranked offensive linemen they've brought in. MSU has brought in some talent on the line, but basically all of that talent has broken.

You have to win in the trenches, especially the way MSU plays football. What took MSU's defense from bad to OK to great was the defensive line getting talent and getting in the backfield. Now the defensive line is stockpiled, and it's a selling point for recruits.

On the other side, MSU's offensive linemen are breaking, no one is getting to the NFL and the top recruits aren't even finishing their careers. The holes in the offensive line were why I wanted MSU to run its offense out of the shotgun last season. They're why Le'Veon Bell was the only running back to get any carries.

Here's where MSU has ranked nationally in rush attempts and yards per carry in the Dantonio era.

Year Att/Gm Rank Yds/Carry Rank
2007 14 40
2008 31 100
2009 101 61
2010 89 47
2011 78 73
2012 59 81

MSU is starting to run the ball more, and they're getting worse at it. This with two running backs who were drafted to the NFL.

The playcalling has been questioned plenty, and the hope will be that Dave Warner realizes this trend. The coaches have talked about the need to change with the times a bit, and you saw some really interesting formations and plays in the first half of the spring game. Given they don't seem to trust any running backs and Warner's history is with the quarterbacks, I'd hope that means they try to open up the passing game. Given the struggles in the trenches, get the ball down the field and away from the trenches.

Which brings us to the quarterbacks. Maxwell was also ripped plenty last season. But with receivers dropping balls and the offensive line breaking down left and right, he wasn't put in a good spot. If the line continues to break down this year, can Maxwell be much better? I'm of the belief that Maxwell is the best "quarterback" on the team, but if the offense around him fails, he will fail. Connor Cook has plenty of flaws, but he can make plays out of nothing. Last year, there was a whole lot of nothing. Maxwell might be the better player, but Cook might be a better fit

If healthy, this should be the best offensive line in the Dantonio era. We said the same thing last year, and two starters suffered season-ending injuries. The loss of Burkland doesn't cost MSU a starter, as I expected the starting line to be France-Allen-Jackson-Treadwell-Fonoti, but Burkland was a backup with 14 games of starting experience and would have been a sure starter in 2014 (and possibly more if he got a sixth year of eligibility). Senior Micajah Reynolds could be moved back to offensive line if bodies are needed.

This means MSU has two senior starting tackles this season, and Jack Conklin and Donavon Clark could be your 2014 starters. Clark started one game last year and looked good at times, while Conklin looks great in spring, but they're going to have to be ready. There are young linemen who reportedly have looked good on the scout team and in the spring.

MSU needs a big haul of offensive linemen in the recruiting class of 2014, and already has two in Brian Allen and Chase Gianacakos. Getting Jones would be huge.

One position has been a problem in the Dantonio era, and most of it has been out of his control. Things could get better.

But it always feels like a matter of time before #AMSUOLHG strikes down its next victim.

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