Spartan Preview part 3 - Special teams, Coaching and Schedule

Now for the pessimistic part of the preview, from least concerning to most concerning.

The coaches:
Tucker’s only wining season was because of Kenneth Walker, all his other seasons at MSU and Colorado have had losing records.
His one claim to fame recruiting, has tailed off dramatically after the 5 and 7 season last year, both at the high school and portal levels.
According to the 247 team talent composite our remaining overall talent on the field is actually slightly lower for Tuckers first three years (35th), compared to the last 3 years of Dantoino (30th). This years ratings are not out as I am not sure the transfer portal has closed yet, hopefully it will show some improvement. With all the transfers in and out the talent level on the actual team each year is much more meaningful than recruiting or transfer portal rankings individually. We are averaging 31 new players each year under Tucker because we are losing 20 people a year to the transfer portal.
Tucker has been showing Dantonio level loyalty to Hazleton and Els who would have been out the door in any SEC school, and any of the top B10 schools. Our defense and special teams both regressed in 2022, and the bar at the end of 2021 was pretty low to begin with.
Last years defensive line coaches that pulled off one of the best recruitment and transfer portal halls we have ever had, both left the team.
Tucker's choice of a new defense line coach to replace them also calls his judgement into question, as who uses B10 level money to land a defensive line coach who is outside of the top 100 in both sacks and rushing defense?
We are also going to be on our third new CB coach in the past three years, as we hired Jim Salgado who was fired by the buffalo bills and has no college recruiting experience outside of the Ivy League. It seems that Barnett, Tucker himself ( he coached the CB’s last year ) and everyone else we have tried can not get the secondary to function in Hazelton's 4-2-5 system.
Going 3-3 against Rutgers and Indiana over the past three years, and finishing behind Maryland 2 of the past 3 years, is not what most MSU alumni were hoping for at 9.5 million a year.

The Schedule
Vegas has us finishing 5th in the East with an over/under of 5 wins.
UM and OSU are predicted to win more than double what we are, WA and Pn St are almost double, Iowa, Minnesota, Maryland and NE are all predicted to finish with winning records. So that is 8 of 12 games against teams predicted to finish better than we will.

One of the main reasons is that we have the second hardest schedule in the nation.
AP preseason poll has us playing the three highest ranking B10 teams UM#3, @OSU#4 and Pn St#7 in Detroit, plus both the top teams in the West on the road @Iowa and @Minnesota, along with #8 WA in the pre-season. So that is 6 games where we will be huge underdogs. UM, OSU, PN ST and WA went 46-7 last year, Minnesota 9-4 and Iowa 8-5. We also play an 8-5 Maryland teams who still has Tug at QB.

CMU and Richmond
The cupcakes better be big wins, or just fast forward to basketball.
Even last years 5-7 team beat the cupcakes 87-13.

A top 8 team who finished 11-2, and brings back Michael Penix the nations leading passer.
Penix carved us up for 400 yards, an insane 17 yards per completion, 4TD, and zero interceptions last year.
Their defense also held our offense that had Reed and Coleman, without a first down until midway through the second quarter.
This is the bellwether game like it was last year, if we win or at least keep it within a score, postpone fast forwarding to basketball.

Another bellwether game as Tug also loves our secondary, and they have just as much talent as we do.
Since we are playing at home, and their head coach is not great either, we need to find a way to Win this one or a bowl becomes difficult.

Hawkeyes added former Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara and tight end Erick All, as well as former Ohio State wide receiver Kaleb Brown to their offense. Even when they had their normally putrid offense they always gave us fits in Iowa City, now that they brought in some top talent our odds look bleak.

@ Rutgers
This is another game you have to Win or fans will check out entirely.

Another top 8 team. This will be a night game in Spartan Stadium against the two time conference champs who are absolutely loaded with talent having had a top recruiting and transfer portal class added to what was already a good team. They beat us 29-7 last year but I am sure they will be thinking about their last Woodshed visit when Walker beat them basically by himself. I hope we can keep it close so the stadium stays loud, but unless Walker slips in undetected I would not bet on the Spartans unless you get a Lot of points. If a miracle occurred, this would be the kind of win that would get Tucker back into the fans good graces.

@ Minnesota
When they annihilated us 34-7 at home last year I finally knew we were in real trouble, I had chalked the WA loss to the fact we never win on the west coast unless it is in the Rose Bowl. But having a much less talented Minnesota team push us around at home told me it was going to be a bad year. This year we get a rematch at their house, but once again we actually have more talent so even though we will be underdogs this is another game we need to win to make a bowl.

Even though they have struggled they actually have more talent on the field than we do, and they replaced the coach who made losing by one score an art form (Frost was 0-8 in one score games in 2021). This is another game you need to win at home to make a bowl.

Another top 8 team. The Spartans have lost seven straight against the Buckeyes, and most have been embarrassing blowouts. The past three years they have outscored us in the first half alone by 100 points. This is a night game at the horseshoe to boot. You may just want to tape record this one.

It is sad we have lost to Indiana by 27 points over the last three years, while even Rutgers has beaten IU by 26 points over the same three years.
For some reason even though IND has been horrible they have managed to beat us in all the non-Walker years.
The coaches will need to do a much better job getting the team motivated to fight for bowl eligibility in this road game, than they did last year at home where we blew a 31-14 lead with 21 minutes to go to miss a bowl game.

Pn St in Detroit.
Another top 8 team and we gave away our chance at home field advantage and bad weather which could have slowed down their many skill players.
If we are 5-6 at this point we will be very sorry about the Ford Field move. Also keep in mind the huge talent discrepancy, last year our average starter was a low 3 star ranked over 700th on 247, while the average starter for Pn St was a 4 star with a ranking inside the top 250. Franklin is a great recruiter but has only been able to turn that talent into one division win, so he only got a 82.5 million dollar ten year contract.

Special teams

We missed two thirds of our field goals from 20-39 yards, which should be automatic.
We basically did nothing about it except lose our two most experienced kickers to the transfer portal.

Stephen Rusnak, who missed 100% of field goals was the only kicker on MSU's Spring roster, North Carolina transfer Johnathan Kim arrived this summer and he only tried one field goal in four years, and you guessed it he missed it.
Interestingly he managed to make more tackles as kicker than field goals plus extra points combined, not a stat you see very often in a kicker.

Ryan Eckley is the projected replacement for Baringer, with a total of one 41 yard punt to his name.
We also added Michael O'Shaughnessy who had one punt for OSU with a net of only 21 yards.

Long snapper
Hank Pepper

Punt returner
Tyrell Henry or Alante Brown will try and replace Reed.

Kick returner.
Tyrell Henry, Montorie Foster will both try and replace Reed.

After many years of superlative kickers we have fallen off a cliff since Coughlin got hurt at the end of 2021.
Last year my preview worried about relying on kickers that had not made many field goals in game situations, this year I worry about relying on kickers who have missed Every single field goal in game situations. It really seems criminally negligent that we actually enter this season with significantly less proven kickers than last year, I don’t understand how we didn’t recruit one, or pick up a proven one in the transfer portal.

Special teams coach Els should have been fired, but instead will once again lead an abysmal special teams for us this year.
We lost our only bright spots in Baringer and Reed so it should be even worse than last year.


Optimism 7-5 or 6-6 and a bad bowl game if we can win the toss up games where we will be less than a score underdog.

Pessimism - Spend this fall making all your reservations in Glendale for Izzo’s ninth Final Four.

I was thinking a bounce back year with a minor bowl until Thorne and Coleman left for more cash.
Now my expected defensive improvement will not translate into victories as the offense will regress, and the special teams will be abysmal.
No kicker, unproven QB, punter, kick returner and punt returner, no WR that scares anyone, inexperienced at both safeties, no upgrades at CB, no game changing RB, last years special teams coach and defensive coordinator still here, and one of the nations toughest schedules, what could possibly go wrong?
I do like our front seven and we should not finish outside the top 100 in rushing defense again despite the downgrade at defensive line coach.
We do finally have some depth on the offensive line and may actually give Berger some holes to run through.
But without game changers like Reed and Coleman ( who scored or set up most of our points) I think I will be looking forward to the basketball preview.
At least there will be beer in the stadium this year as we will probably need it.

This is a FanPost, written by a member of the TOC community. It does not represent the official positions of The Only Colors, Inc.--largely because we have no official positions.