Hey, football's back! Sort of. Well, not really. But sort of. Which is enough, innit?
Let's just acknowledge the general disclaimer of DON'T BELIEVE SPRING FOOTBALL'S LIES at the top, and move onwards.
Full depth chart here.
Engage in some wild speculation and pseudo-science? Don't mind if I do!
Taiwan Jones to MLB
*shrugs* makes sense to me, man. Yes, he was very good at Star last year, but he has both the desired size (6'3, 252) and knowledge base (as the only returning starter at LB) to have a head-start on younger or smaller players also vying for this important position. Maybe we'll see shifts as the Spring wears on, but it's not like it'd be hard to slide him back to the outside if it wasn't working out, or if someone was outperforming him.
Darien Harris to OLB
Flip-flopping with Jones around the depth chart. This spot is also probably a more 'traditional' fit for someone of Harris' size, and the necessary coverage aspects of the role shouldn't come too tough to the former high school safety. The fact that he doesn't necessarily have to make all the calls either in his first year starting can't hurt.
Joel Heath to DT
Joel Heath bulked up this off-season and looks like more of a natural fit here replacing Tyler Hoover's role as a tall, long-armed, disruptive, defensive tackle. With depth at DT looking a little shaky with Scarpinato's retirement, this seems a good spot for a player coach's have raved about but who only saw spot minutes last year, and was very unlikely to break past Calhoun or Rush this season.
Jamal Lyles remains at TE
There isn't the desperate need for bodies at TE anymore like there was at times last spring. But it's still not the deepest position, while the DE depth chart remains imposingly stacked. Lyles showed flashes before losing playing time to Price as the season wore on. With the departure of Michael Dennis, there's room for a new second tight end in MSU's two TE packages.
Donavon Clark remains at OT
With the options behind him being terribly inexperienced, Clark, who's had a handful of starts at the position over the last two years, is probably a safe bet to hold down this tackle spot through the Spring at least. I'd still personally prefer he gets a shot inside at some point in his career, but I can understand why that can't happen yet.
Riley Bullough remains at LB
Where, really, he probably should've been all along. We'll always have those few fevered 2013 summer months of 'R. Bullough, starting MSU tailback', though...
Evan Jones remains at DE
Where, I believe, he was flipped to in Bowl practices from TE?
Tyler O'Connor adds back-up (to the back-up) punting duties
OK, first off, this seemingly throw away listing, very possibly there simply to indicate that O'Connor is going to be the holder, or that Cronin can't punt, or it could... COULD MEAN, that though O'Connor was forced his whole life to propel the ball through the air with his arm, what he REALLY wanted to do is kick it, and he is living out every kid's dream of punting for a major Division one football team.
Hear me out here. Punt formation. Sadler is punting depth over the right guard. O'Connor is punting depth over the left guard. Who's the long-snapper going to give the ball? Is that player going to throw? Run for 26 yards? Unleash a booming kick? Impossible to know. Impossible to defend.
As our friends at MGoBlog take pains to remind each spring, all weight changes are, of course, good weight changes. A player who has bulked up is really preparing for the long pounding of the upcoming football season and should dominate with this newly added physicality. A player who's slimmed down is now faster, more agile, and ready to fly by his waddling opposition on the other side of the line of scrimmage. No exceptions.
Players who've gained 5 or more pounds since the start of last season (least to most)
Darian Hicks, CB (176 -> 181)
David Fennel, DT (267 -> 272)
Zac Leimbach, CB (193 -> 198)
John Jakubik (188 -> 194)
Benny McGowen, OG (312 -> 318)
Trey Kilgore (175 -> 182)
Shilique Calhoun, DE (250 -> 257)
Aaron Burbridge, WR (195 -> 203)
Andre Sims Jr, WR (185 -> 193)
Sean Harrington, LB (188 -> 196)
Damion Terry, QB (222 -> 230)
Adam Brown, OG (280 -> 288)
Noah Jones, DT (276 -> 285)
Donavon Clark , OT(300 -> 310)
Gabe Augustin, CB (176 -> 186)
Marcus Rush, DE (245 -> 255)
Delton Williams, RB (220 -> 232)
Chris Laneaux, S (190 -> 202)
Darien Harris, LB (215 -> 228)
Deanthony Arnett, WR (175 -> 189)
Kevin Cronin, K (200 -> 216)
Shane Jones, LB (220 -> 238)
Taybor Pepper, LS (200 -> 222)
Jalyn Powell, S (183 -> 206)
Joel Heath, DT (260 -> 289)
Demetrius Cooper, DE (208 -> 239)
James Kittredge, DT (252 -> 295)
Players who've lost 5 or more pounds since the start of last season
James Bodanis, OT (305 -> 300)
Justin Williams, S (180 -> 175)
Lawrence Thomas, DE (305 -> 294)
Paul Lang, TE (260 -> 252)
Kody Kieler, OT (326 -> 309)
Mike Sadler (192 -> 170)
Michael Toplinski, LB (237 -> 190)
As you can see, many more players have gained 5 or more pounds than have lost 5 or more pounds. What does this all mean?! Probably nothing concrete!
They're there. Nothing too crippling, but they're there.
Achieving perpetual reload
MSU lists 23 positions on offense or defense. Currently, 8 red-shirt seniors are slated as starters at these positions, and another 13 starters on offense or defense are juniors or true seniors. True sophomore Darian Hicks is the only slated offensive/defensive starter not entering his third year on the MSU football team (Jack Conklin is a red-shirt sophomore).
14 out the 22 listed Spring back-ups on offense or defense are either juniors or sophomores AKA they're next year's juniors and seniors. True, 4 red-shirt freshman are listed as backups at positions, but so too are 4 red-shirt seniors.
MSU lost close to double digit starters last year, and in all likelihood will lose another 10 or so at the end of this season. This might sound like a bad thing, but the not-so secret is, that durable programs are built off of replacing many departing juniors and seniors with their incoming junior and senior backups (along with the a handful of mercurial underclassmen). After 2-4 full years in the program, the knowledge of the playbook is there, the strength and conditioning has been absorbed, and a goodly amount of back-up reps of live game action have been experienced. I think this is what elite football rosters look like.