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Michigan State Spartans Football: Spring Mailbag

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Joe answers questions from readers

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

I got some questions from y'all about football, and I thought I'd answer them, since we're just 12 days away from the Spring Game. I think this inadvertently turned into somewhat of a parody on Rexrode's Hey Joe blog. #Fire2E

Hey Joe,

So signing day was great, no drama, a couple of nice late editions, higher average rankings then any previous class. It was awesome. But at the risk of nit picking did we go too heavy on the defense front seven and too light on wide receivers? We brought in two high quality kids this year after only taking one last year in Morrissey (who was an recruited as an athlete IIRC and he's now listed on the roster on defense) but we're losing five following next season in addition to Lippett and Mumphery. Do we know if there is suppose to be especially strong wide receiver class next year?

- Victor R.

This is a great question. There are three Wide Receiver depth chart positions listed: X, Z, and F. All six guys on the two deep are Juniors or Seniors: Aaron Burbridge, AJ Troup, Monty Madaris, DeAnthony Arnett, R.J. Shelton, and Matt Macksood. That's not counting Macgarrett Kings, who appears to be playing this spring and is also a senior.

That's concerning, if 2008 and 2012 are any indication. In 2008, MSU came off of losing Devin Thomas and Kellen Davis, the two of which combined for 111 of 232 total receptions in 2007. That 2008 team had some, ahem, trouble throwing the ball despite possessing a senior Brian Hoyer. It featured a sophomore Mark Dell, a redshirt freshman B.J. Cunningham, a true freshman Keshawn Martin, and a junior walk-on named Blair White who came on late in the season. Those four turned out well, but that '08 season was so filled with growing pains that it caused Hoyer to not be drafted.

2012 had similar issues. That team lost B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin, Brian Linthicum, and Keith Nichol who combined for 202 out of 288 total receptions from 2011. And we all remember how 2012 went.

So anyways, back to the current roster. I didn't totally believe Victor until I went back and looked at the classes, but he's right. In 2013, the only two wide receiver commits were Datbull (Jay Harris) and Trey Kilgore, who has yet to crack the two-deep. 2014 featured a bagel in the wide receiver category. So that's two full classes without a significant contributor.

Which makes the 2015 and 2016 classes pretty important for the WR category. On the official commit list there are a potential three receivers: Felton Davis III, David Dowell (listed as a DB/WR) and Darrell Stewart Jr. Assuming all three redshirt, they would be redshirt freshman in 2016 with just R.J. Shelton and Monty Madaris as vets ahead of them. That 2016 team will be featuring a new quarterback and potentially three new offensive line starters, if Jack Conklin bolts early. That could be trouble.

The good news is that the 2016 class is off to a good start with Cam Chambers committing already. He's a bona-fide four star who is certainly a top-150 guy.

There's also been talk of Montae Nicholson playing a little bit both ways, which would be intriguing. We know that Mark Dantonio isn't against the idea, after Tony Lippett played both ways last year. It could end up being necessary.

Hey Joe,

What's the deal with there being no tailgating for the spring game? If Mark Dantonio is going to suggest we "Bring 50" why not make it a whole day on campus and get the students more involved?

- Thomas T.

Another excellent question. Look, I get it. Michigan State is attempting to cater to the "right type of fan" and provide a "family atmosphere."

The problem is that you can't have it both ways. Tailgating is a big part of the fan experience, and it draws additional people to East Lansing on home gamedays during the fall, too. That excitement matters! People travel, and students get involved not because of a football clinic, but because they want to do fun stuff with their friends.

Late April is the perfect time to capitalize on a Beautiful Day for Football. When I was at MSU, I actually went to exactly zero spring games. Why? Because nobody else wanted to go. Now, if there had been tailgates to attend, I think the collective excitement would've pushed groups to get behind the idea. Let's make it a true "Spring Game."

There could be logistical issues, but I feel like those could be smoothed over, given the fact that seven of these things happen every fall.

Hey Joe,

Soothe my concerns about the cornerbacks. After Darqueze Dennard left, the corner spot opposite Trae Waynes was such a mess that they had to flip Tony Lippett around to play both ways. Why should I have any confidence now that both Waynes and Pat Narduzzi are gone too?

- Pauly D.

The Darian Hicks situation last fall was so bad that I may need to begin calling it "The Darian Hicks Situation." You don't ever want to play your go-to receiver on defense unless it is absolutely, 100 percent necessary. Had Lippett gone down last year, it would've been a disaster for the offense. We're lucky that didn't happen.

There are reasons for optimism, though.

First, the Cotton Bowl featured significantly more rotation among the defensive secondary than I was used to seeing there during the regular season. Despite the small sample size of just one game, this rotation did appear to improve the late-game effectiveness of the defense, at least in comparison to the Oregon and Ohio State games. If that's the strategy going forward, the mass of bodies competing for time at corner should be encouraging. Hicks, Vayante Copeland, Demetrious Cox, Arjen Colquhoun, and Jermaine Edmondson have all been mentioned when Dantonio has talked about corners this spring.

Second, recruiting. As you may know, since it has been discussed ad nauseum, Dennard and Waynes were lightly recruited. The five guys I've mentioned were all more highly recruited than Dennard or Waynes, and that should inspire some confidence. Not all of those five need to be first round draft picks, but if one can turn out that way, and two others can become serviceable, that's ideal.

Third, experience. Everyone other than Copeland is at least a junior. It's clear that it can take some time to learn how to be on an island in the aggressive cover four scheme, and Hicks at least has significant in-game experience. With increased playing time, the starters will shake themselves out. The staff has shown the ability to develop guys.

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Until next time! Thanks for the questions. If you leave additional ones in the comments, I'll try to cull the best ones for the next mailbag. Or, as always, e-mail me at tuoheyjo1@gmail.com.