Spartan Preview part 2 - the Offense

Boy do I miss Kenneth Walker ( I bet Tucker does as well ).
Even when he wasn’t breaking a long run all on his own, his presence opened things up for Thorne.
Last year with just Coleman and Reed to worry about we were easier to plan for, and this year I am not sure who opposing defenses will have to game plan around.
Without Walker Thorne was good but not great, as he got banged up a lot more with no running game to fear.
On the last day of free agency Thorne decided to pursue a more lucrative NIL deal at Auburn, and Coleman also bailed for more $ to Fl St.

Lets look at what we have this year on this side of the ball from worst to best:

Wide Receiver
Of our top 7 pass catchers we only return Tre Mosley the #3 receiver, Carr the #2 TE, and Berger the running back, the rest are gone including Coleman and Bernard who were supposed to be the new #1 and #2.
That is 1,953 receiving yards gone, and only 696 returning.
No WR beyond Mosley caught more than seven passes for the Spartans in 2022.
We have gone from incredibly deep to wondering who our #2,3,4 WR's even are.
Unfortunately we did not bring in any 4 stars from the transfer portal, or in recruitment, as we thought we were going to be fine.
We do have Antonio gates who was a 4 star last year but did not catch a pass.

Tre Mosley (35 catches), Montorie Foster (7catches), Christian Fitzpatrick (2 catches) are the only ones with Spartan experience.
The only other one with any experience is Alante Brown who was the #5 receiver on an 8 loss NE teams and had 16 catches for lee than 200 yards. Other unproven scholarship options who never caught a ball last year are Antonio Gates Jr., Tyrell Henry, Jaron Glover, Aziah Johnson, and Jaelen Smith.

Not only have we lost the Thorne-Reed connection that bailed us out a lot over the last two years, we also lost the Hauser to Bernard high school connection that was supposed to bail us out in the future.
Now we have a new QB throwing to new guys, none of which are real game breaking threats at the moment.
I do like Hawkins the position coach, and hopefully a lot of guys who we don’t know much about will step up.

Tight End
Barker who led the tight ends in catches and yards is gone, along with Hunt who was a great blocker and the master of trick plays.
We return Carr and no one else that caught a pass for us last year.
We did bring in three TE transfers that can block (since Carr doesn’t like to).
One had two receptions in four years
One had 9 in three years, at the division 2 level
The last Hopper had 13 in five years at Bosie.
We did also bring in a 4 star TE recruit Paracheck, but most true freshman have trouble with the blocking responsibilities.

As long as Carr stays heathy we should be fine as he improved throughout the year and has NFL receiving talent, but it he gets hurt TE could be a disaster.

Thorne was hurt last year but still finished in the top six all time in TD passes, completion percentage, and passing yards in MSU program history.
He had two years available to add to those numbers so he probably would graduated as one of our top statistical QB’s in history.
Fans that are glad he left were not paying attention. Kim (14/19 passing) and Hauser (1/2 passing) may end up as good QB's but with basically no experience, and hardly anyone to throw to, it may not be this year.
Hauser is the higher rated QB and was one of the top 11 QB’s in his class, he has both good arm strength and foot speed.
Kim was only a 3 star but he has two more years in the system, and got the QB#2 snaps last year in practice.
We also brought in a 4 star freshmen but it is unrealistic to expect him to compete as he didn’t even enroll early in the spring.

I like our QB assistant coach as well, and since we didn’t match Thorne’s offer we must be confident one of these two will be able to fill in.
However there are always growing pains when you move from reading high school defenses and avoiding a high school rush, to doing so in the Big Ten.
At least with the QB controversy we should be able to let the eventual starter run more and add a new wrinkle to the offense, since we will have a similar option on the bench. Hopefully no more deep handoffs and then standing around like Thorne did.

Running Back
Last year we averaged over 200 yards rushing per game against ILL, IND, Rutgers, Akron and Western.
Against the better teams we faced we averaged less than 50 yards per game, so don’t judge the rush game until we play some good teams.
Berger (11 starts) was our leading rusher, but was only 14th in the Big Ten and 115th in the nation in yards.
No one else who even gained 15 yard last season RB, WR, TE or QB returns.
Our transfer Carter from UConn had only 4 starts, and Mangham from UCF along with the rest of the backups have never started.

Similar to TE things may be a disaster if Berger gets hurt especially if Carter has not fully recovered from his shoulder injury.
I really think our running game will improve for two reasons;
1. I think we will finally use the QB as a running threat in misdirections and running the option, so the entire defense can’t crash down on Berger after a deep handoff.
2. I think the offensive line will no longer be our biggest weakness this year, and Berger may actually have some holes to run through provided we find a passing game to keep teams from loading the box.

Offensive Line
It has to be at least back to 2015 and probably farther since I ranked the offensive line as the best position group.
Last year was a bad year for the offensive line, no Kenneth Walker to make something out of nothing, and no depth as we only had 7 total bodies including walk ons for the spring game.
MSU ranked 110th out of 130 teams in rushing last year.
We ranked 118th in converting 3rd and less than 2 yards on the ground, which is embarrassing for a power five team that likes to run.
We ranked 127th out of 130 teams in time of possession since we couldn’t run against any of the good teams we faced.
Aside from the Kenneth Walker year we have been bottom three in the big ten in rushing for the past five years, even though we run the ball more than most teams.
This year we should finally have both experience and depth on the offensive line.

We return three of five starters all who avoided the injury bug last year
J.D. Duplain 12 starts at left guard,
Nick Samac 12 starts at center,
Spencer Brown 12 starts at right tackle

Top candidates for the two open spots:
Baldwin 5 starts at LT
VanDemark 2 starts at RG
Blackstock the #8 ranked JUCO player at tackle who arrived in the Spring.

Other options and depth
Ramil a top 250 tackle recruit - probably won’t play much as a true freshmen although he enrolled early
Fincher guard - 0 starts but 11 games, top 500 recruit
Dellinger guard - true freshman, top 500 recruit, and enrolled early
Boyd tackle - 0 starts but 10 games
Wigenton guard - 0 starts but 4 games
Gavin Broscious guard - redshirt freshman has not played
Ashton Lepo tackle - redshirt freshman has not played
Braden Miller tackle - redshirt freshman has not played
Kristian Phillips guard - redshirt freshman has not played

That is 15 scholarship big bodies for 5 spots, ten of which are over 310 pounds, that is a far cry from where we have been for years.
We should be able to get back to rotating linemen to keep them fresh and decrease injuries.
We also have the size to start opening some holes for the running backs, and take the pressure off of our new QB.

This year is going to be a flip from past years as we should have a good line, but have lots of questions at the skill positions.
A good line makes everyone better, so hopefully the skill guys will step up.
It will depend on the offensive coordinator.
If we try and play like last year it will be a long season as we don’t have multiple deep threat receivers and an experienced QB with a favorite receiver to bail us out on third and longs.
What we do have is a chance to use the QB as a running threat, and a line that can finally get a push to open plays up.
If we play our cards right we should be able to keep possession of the ball, and not have long third downs to worry about.

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.