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TOC Friday Mailbag — Manbearpig edition

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Austin answers your questions on football, basketball and Al Gore’s second most famous discovery

Ohio State v Michigan State Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

It’s Friday. You’re not working, I’m not working, let’s talk Spartan sports.

To the mailbag!


1.

I think you have the wrong number, this question was clearly intended for Dom. Moving on.

2.

One way or another, they’re both going get used, but who they end up going to is very much up in the air.

Somehow, we still haven’t heard about Ben Carter’s NCAA appeal. If he gets a sixth year of eligibility, one of those spots is his. Brian Bowen is also still floating out there and, while it would be a bit of a surprise, if he wants to come to East Lansing in a timely manner the other spot belongs to him.

In a perfect world those are your guys, but if one or both of them end up falling through it will be a very interesting finish to the class. There are a few options, however.

One of the more recent developments actually concerns a 2018 recruit, small forward Hameir Wright, who is considering reclassifying to the class of 2017. MSU has offered and is making a push regardless of what class he ends up in, but Kansas, Syracuse Villanova and Miami are all involved, as well.

Wright is certainly interesting, but with Miles Bridges’ returning the Spartans are in “win it all this year” mode. Should it come down to one spot, that might make pursuing an instant impact grad transfer the more appealing route for Tom Izzo as opposed to bringing in another true freshman, especially one who is jumping up a class.

The GT market probably won’t start to move until May 24th or so. That’s when players who declared for the NBA Draft but did not sign agents have until to make their final decision. The challenge will selling a big-time player on a smaller, non-starting role. Considering MSU is probably looking for a scoring combo guard that might be tough.

Another route could be the standard transfer. It wouldn’t directly impact this year’s playing group but with Bridges, Gavin Schilling, Tum Tum Nairn and Carter (if he returns) all definitely set to leave — and a possible early declaration from Nick Ward — minutes and shots in 2018 should be plentiful. You’d have to think that would be pretty appealing to a transfer.

If all else fails, it will be given to a walk-on like Conner George. Speaking of George...

3.

God, this is a depressing question.

It’s not because I don’t think George can be a good player — he did average 23 ppg/11 rpg his senior year of high school and Mike Kebler, Austin Thornton and Colby Wollenman were all solid role players, so anything is possible — but because the threshold for the football team to succeed is so low, and I’m still not that confident.

We’ll use Matt Van Dyk’s past year — 7.3 minutes per game for the season and 6.1 in conference play — as a baseline. Conveniently, that falls in line with where I expect the 2017 MSU Football team to end up.

I’ll say that the football team wins 7 games, beating George’s conference mpg but not his overall. I’m already so sad.

4.

I’m defining “highest ceiling” as group with the most impact players and the answer here is running back.

LJ Scott is, once again, the best player MSU will roll out on offense. Last season, he came to life as the offensive line — which will be the most improved position group on the team — started to gel, averaging 109.6 yards per game over the last six games of 2016.

He took a major step forward physically from his freshman year to his sophomore year, coming in in better condition and significantly more agile. If he takes similar step forward heading into his junior season, he’ll be one of the most dangerous weapons in the conference.

His backup, Gerald Holmes, is also a workhorse. He doesn’t always read the line effectively, but he never stops his legs and if given starter’s carries he could probably push 1,000 yards on his own. Behind both of them, there’s Madre London. Twice the star of the spring game, London’s speed and one cut ability are what set him apart from the rest of the gang.

Finally, there’s incoming freshman Connor Heyward. Recruited as an athlete, Heyward could project to both sides of the ball, but will start as running back. At 6’1” 200, the son of NFL player Craig “Ironhead” Heyward and brother of current Pittsburgh Steeler Cameron Heyward, has quite the pedigree.

All told, I think you’re looking at one dynamite weapon, two to three starting-caliber players and one really exciting freshman. That’s a pretty high ceiling group.

5.

If we’re sticking within the Dantonio era, the two major failed transitions have been Kirk Cousins to Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook to Tyler O’Connor/Damion Terry. Not coincidentally, the two years following Cousins’ and Cook’s departures have been the worst in Dantonio’s tenure.

Now, these guys were not good, there’s no arguing that, but I will say that “any level of competent” is a bit harsh. They were competent at their best, but never much more.

Maxwell had plenty of flaws, was skittish in the pocket — you would be too after being eaten alive by an absurdly talented Alabama team in the 2011 Outback Bowl — and never learned how to throw anything but his fastball. BUT he did throw for over 2,600 yards, had more touchdowns (13) than interceptions (9) and quarterbacked his team to a bowl game. His receivers also dropped an insane number of balls this year, which did not help things.

On paper, O’Connor had a decent season last year, too. He almost hit 2,000 yards, completed nearly 60% of his passes and had a better TD-to-INT ratio (16:9) than Maxwell. It’s not his fault the defense couldn’t rush the passer and his offensive line had the consistency of cheesecloth. Terry basically doesn’t register here because he’s always hurt.

Replacing the two best QB’s in school history is not an enviable position to find yourself in but Dantonio does his best to initiate his understudy QB’s and get the snaps in real game action before they take the reins. Maxwell, O’Connor and Terry all played in multiple games before getting their shots but, honestly, they just weren’t that good.

So, to answer your question: Why does this happen? It’s all situational. I think these guys found themselves on teams that needed something more than a competent QB and they simply weren’t up to the task.

BONUS ROUND

Leave it to Zanjo to give me something absurd. Nice work.

For those who don’t know, manbearpig is the half man/half bear/half pig brain child of former Vice President Al Gore. He can be seen in this clip confirming manbearpig’s existence.

On the one hand an enormous duck is intimidating. Staying away from the beak would be key and its wingspan would be tough to grapple with. I’d have to make him engage on my terms. Give me a place to hide and catapults to shoot, this is a done deal. I’ve seen The Hobbit. FOIE GRAS FOR EVERYONE! But if its in an open field, I’m gonna need a spear and a whole lot of luck.

On the other hand, I’m not messing with a manbearpig no matter the size. Like, I wouldn’t fight a badger, so why would I fight a much more aggressive and deadly version of that animal? The potentially delicious barbecue payoff is tempting, but the teeth, the claws and the, uh, human part are too much for ole Austin.

So, I’m going with the Manbearpig sized Duck. It would be huge and the beak/wing combo is terrifying, but I’m not messing with this terrifying dream beast regardless of how small it is.


Thanks for writing in folks, let’s do this again some time.