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The Official Ask a Spartan Anything About Michigan State Thread

  • Hey Badgers!

    As some of you know, I'm a writer and moderator for the MSU 247 site. Since last season I've been going on the 247 boards for all of MSU's opponents and offering to answer any and all questions you may have about the Spartan football team. I'm not here to flame or anything like that; I'm fairly proficient in X's and O's and try to keep things as "on the field" as possible. I'll check back in throughout the day/week, so just drop your questions in this thread and I'll answer them in order.

    Michigan State does not and will not run the 3-4 defense.

  • Have Fun in Madison.

  • Analysis of Maxwell so far?

    How have the receivers stepped up in place of Martin and Cunningham?

    Is your D still up to its thuggery ways?

  • Do you think Maxwell can make the throws to beat Wisconsin?

    Do you think that a Dline, without Worthy, will be able to stop the running attack the Badgers have?

    Will Sparty be able to play discipline ball (ie penalities)?

    Is Bell wearing down that he only has 3.43 yards per carry average in Big Ten Play?

    Will Mark D be able to control the lockerroom and prevent lack of care after spartys terrible start?

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  • 1) Maxwell is an above average pro-style passer with a very live arm, but . . .

    2) . . . the receivers have not stepped up to be anything close to what Martin and Cunningham have been. I think the WR drops stand at 24 on the year. That's ridiculous. The best of the bunch are Aaron Burbridge (6'1 190, true FR) and Keith Mumphery in the slot (RS Soph, 6'0 208).

    3) If you mean personal fouls, they have definitely been on the decline. I think there was one late hit against UM, and that was on a kick-off.

    Michigan State does not and will not run the 3-4 defense.

  • What is the status of the OL. I know the injury bug has hit, but is there a light at end of the tunnel? How do you feel about the match up against our DL? I think that the key to the game. Not just the one on one, but also how free our LB are able to play.
    Of course (as with every MSU UW game) turnovers and special teams could play its hand.

  • 1) Can he make the throws? Yes. Will the receivers catch enough of them? Unlikely.

    2) Not consistently enough. White at NT is a load at 6'2 330 and seems to be coming into his own. Quite frankly I think he was playing too heavy at the beginning of the year and is playing himself into shape. He had 5 tackles (3 solo) against UM, half a TFL and a PBU. Not bad for a nose. Problem is that there has been almost nothing from the 3-tech (Worthy's old position). Micajah Reynolds (6'5, 318, RS JR) has bounced between the OL and the DL his whole career, finally settling on the DL this year. He's been very good at holding the point of attack against the run, but hasn't taken that next step to be able to penetrate the B-gap and make plays in the backfield. James Kittredge (RS Soph, 6'4 272) has the motor to get inside, but isn't big enough yet to fight off the stronger OGs. RS SR Tyler Hoover (6'7 310) has been injured since game 3 and just started working his way back last game.

    The MSU LBs have been playing at a very high level, particularly Max Bullough. The problem for me is that this is the 9th straight game for the Spartans with no bye week, and they're coming off of 2 close Ls. Mental and physical fatigue has to be at a season high, and that's not what you want to see going up against a massive OL and power run game.

    3) Penalties have been much better the past few weeks after MSU was whistled 8 times for 115 yards against IU. MSU will get between 4-6 penalties for somewhere around 40-60 yards. Personal foul penalties haven't been frequent this year; pass interference is the most likely 15-yarder and the OL is good for 1 hold/game.

    4) 226 carries in 8 games = being worn down. MSU never established a 2nd RB like UW has in White and with an unknown passing O, it's been Bell or Bust on O. Teams are keying on him and with MSU's OL injuries (3 opening day starters were out for the UM game), it's just been bad.

    5) That's the question I'll be wondering about all week.

    Michigan State does not and will not run the 3-4 defense.

  • Awful. Here was the projected OL at the beginning of the year:

    LT: Dan France, RS JR, 6'6 316

    LG: Blake Treadwell, RS JR, 6'3 300

    C: Travis Jackson, RS Soph 6'3 280

    RG: Chris McDonald, RS SR, 6'5 298

    RT: Fou Fonoti, SR, 6'4 296

    Here's what the line looked like against Michigan:

    LT: Donovan Clark, RS FR, 6'4 304

    LG: Blake Treadwell, RS JR, 6'3 300

    C: Jack Allen, RS FR, 6'1 292

    RG: Chris McDonald, RS SR, 6'5 298

    RT: Skylar Burkland, RS Soph, 6'7 315

    That's the 5th combination of starting OL MSU has rolled out this year. This was Treadwell's first full game this season at LG (stress fracture in his leg held him out from the 2nd week of fall camp on); Allen had been working there for the first 7 games and struggled. Allen is actually the 3rd C to be used; RS SR Ethan Ruhland (6'4 290) was there as well. Burkland has been rusty after missing most of last year with a broken ankle. McDonald is good, but having 1 good OL = fail.

    Oddly enough, Clark had a very solid game against UM; not a single UM DL recorded a TFL, and in fact, UM had only 1 TFL on the day (10 yard sack). I guess you could call that a light, but UM's DL is kind of just ok at best. Bell had no running room, though pass pro was solid.

    Not too familiar with your DL; I know Borland is having another great year, so I figure they're able to keep him clean at least. Who's working in at DT; Hemer and Allen? How's Kelly (I think that's him) at DE coming back from injury?

    Michigan State does not and will not run the 3-4 defense.

  • I knew you had some injuries, but didn't realize it was that extensive. Our DL has had some very good moments, but still have some things to work on. IMO Allen is the MVP of the line thus far. He has gotten pentration, which is rare for interior DL at Wisconsin. Still would like to see more big plays out of him. I like what we have going on the edges with Gilbert and Kelly/Muldoon, but they have all been injured from time to time. We are getting some pressure, but not enough. Seem to be a step short at times, but are still relying to heavily on our LBs to make plays. That is the design of our defense, but still need more plays off the edge. Gilbert is more of a fly to the ball guy. Hemer is having a solid season, but nothing spectacular. Losing Kohout to start the season has really affected our rotational depth. Although a couple of the younger guys have shown promise, Warren Herring in particular. The trio of Borland/Taylor/Armstrong is the strength. Borland leads the team in sacks and Taylor in TFLs. The 3 LB's are 1-3 in tackles. What that says is if you can tie up our LB's you are having a good day.

  • Yea, Allen is a true C who's been playing LG. LT Dan France had a concussion during practice, so he was out of the UM game. Clark is really an OG playing LT, because the 2nd string LT Michael Dennis (RS Soph, 6'7 309) is out with a knee injury. Oh joy . . .

    As things stand right now, I expect it to be a close game at halftime, with UW wearing MSU down in the second half. I don't think it gets super-ugly, but something like 31-17 Wisconsin is sounding about right. Now, TOs could change that around obviously, and the Spartan pass D is going to give Abbrederis and Stave all they can handle. I just don't see how MSU holds up for 4 Qs against UW's OL, who's getting stronger and stronger as the year goes on.

    State lacks the special teams burners to a) flip the field or b) actually score on a return.

    Michigan State does not and will not run the 3-4 defense.

  • The thing about our passing game is the play calling. We have a young QB who has deep ball accuracy issues. What do we do? throw the deep ball. Until we start to work in more of the screen game I will consider our passing O a liability against good defenses. Or kicking (FGs) is worst in the big ten, so I am not hoping for a close game. Punter has been a pleasant surprise.

  • MSU is right there with FGs. 15/21 and has had misses in 6 of 8 games. Given that MSU has lost its Big 10 games by 1 point, 3 points and 2 points, you'd think that makes a little bit of a difference? Heck, if he makes his FG against Iowa, MSU likely wins in regulation.

    Been just a ridiculously frustrating season and wasting a truly strong defensive effort.

    Michigan State does not and will not run the 3-4 defense.

  • Thanks for this, Rocky! I think it's awesome what you are doing, really appreciate it.
    Has the concussion (I'm calling it a concussion, when he got knocked out) affected Gholston at all? He hasn't been making as much noise as I thought I would've heard out of him.
    What would you consider the weakness of your defense? I know you are fairly elite, but where will Wisconsin be able to make progress?
    Should we be worried about your TE's for the game?
    I apologize if these are fairly basic questions, but I haven't been able to pay attention to MSU as much as I would've like to this year.

    If God dwells inside us, like some people say, I sure hope He likes enchiladas, because that's what He's getting

  • Do you think that this is the year Narduzzi gets a head coaching offer?

  • 1. Absolutely; loved doing it this year and have gotten good discussions going with every fanbase outside of Indiana (due to lack of IU fans).

    2. I think the lack of an interior playmaker at DT/NT has affected Gholston more than anything else; he wasn't exactly playing lights out (no pun intended) before that hit. Gholston is very good at backside pursuit and can make incredibly plays if he's unblocked. He hasn't shown an ability to beat decent OTs one on one though and certainly can't handle double teams consistently. His best moves are actually on stunts, where he gets going against an OG, usually through the B-gap. Haven't had a 3-tech that he can effectively stunt with though.

    3. The D's weakness has been dual threat QBs (Miller and Shoelace both had over 5 YPC against MSU) and runs to the outside. Weisman's only big run came when the LBs crashed down too hard on the play-side B and C gap; TE got a good seal and as soon as Weisman got through the LOS, he had essentially bypassed the DL AND the LBs. Against ND and tOSU, counter draws really gave MSU's LBs fits; they're very aggressive going downhill, but get burned by over-pursuit.

    The other weakness is just what I call "lack of clutch-ness" lol. Not really an identifiable stat, but the MSU D hasn't been able to come up with that final great play to actually win the game. Against Ohio State, they needed to get MSU the ball back with around 3:45 left on the clock and they weren't able to stop tOSU (who I think only converted 6/17 3rd downs in the game, MSU was the only team to hold them under 20 points all year), against Iowa, they had the Hawkeyes in 2nd and 26! (Chop-block) and gave up the only long pass play of the game (35 yards, beautiful ball over good coverage) and then gave up the only big run of the game shortly thereafter. Iowa tied it up and won in 2 OTs. Against Michigan, MSU is up a point with UM out of FG range . . . and gave up a 20 yard strike to a slot receiver where the safety just lost track of him. That's in a game where MSU was giving up under 6 yards per pass attempt, had yielded under 200 yards passing, 0 TDs and 1 INT.

    Objectively, the defense has been good enough to win every game this season; MSU has only given up more than 20 points once this year (27 to Indiana, who actually has a very good offense, ask Ohio State), and in their 3 Big 10 losses have given up 17, 13 and 12 points in regulation. If the Spartans had any semblance of an offense (109th in scoring O), the team would be at 7-1 and ranked in the top 10. As it stands, it's horrific and I'm just waiting for the defense to have a total breakdown in one game (and they reserve the right to do so; can't expect a D to keep up these great scoring D #s with an O that goes 3 and out on 50% of its drives).

    4. If Dion Sims plays, I'd be concerned about MSU's TEs. He sprained his ankle against IU and hasn't caught a pass since the Ohio State game (last 3 games has either sat or had 0 catches; he only played against UM and didn't play much). Despite that, he still leads Big 10 TEs in receiving yards. At 6'5 280, he's a huge weapon (literally and figuratively), but I just don't think he's healthy. RS FR H-Back Paul Lang (6'5 255) is working into the offense and caught his first career TD pass against UM. Nice weapon, but he's not the threat Sims is.

    Michigan State does not and will not run the 3-4 defense.

  • I think he's waiting for an AQ head coaching gig. If one comes available, he'll go.

    D loses 2 starters off it next year; NT White and CB Adams. I think gholston stays because he's played like crap this year; NFL won't take a risk, especially given his last name. MSU could be trotting out its 3rd straight high level D in '13, with no Ohio State, Wisconsin or Penn State on the schedule. May be in his best interest to wait one more year and show that his D's aren't a one or two year wonder. That may be a little wishful thinking on my part, but I can't see him staying past the end of '13 at best (from MSU's perspective at least).

    Michigan State does not and will not run the 3-4 defense.

  • SR, i tried warning some of your fans about the delusions/fantasies they were having prior to the season. As far as i can tell watching you guys; your passing game is suffering with no slot receiver like martin to take the pressure off the edge guys. Simply do not have the players as last year (QB, OL not being good (with Dantonio, i don't ever seeing the OL being "great", green receivers etc). It isn't the play calling as much as your fans want to blame the OC as. That's the easy way out by pretending that there are no talent issues. The constantly harped on about "depth" was complete farce. Not even blue-bloods have depth to lose that much and not miss a beat.

    As far as the match-up with the Badgers goes, our D is improved. The DBs are the weaknesses but that is negated by the receivers being your biggest weakness on offense. DT Allen is coming into his potential. He's big, he's quick for his size, but weighed down by the fact that Wisconsin does absolutely no stunts to get pressure up the middle. One on ones with bull rushes is all what they're seemed to be taught. Borland is just a beast. I don't think your D can stop the running game - it couldn't last year with a better DLine group. I'm worried about Stave with the DBs of MSU. His passes look like they're up for grabs/fades. An attacking DB can and will make the play on those. The receivers will get open, it's a matter of him getting it to them with proper zip and accuracy.

  • Spartan I just want to say that this is cool what you do.

  • Actually, the slot receiver Mumphery is MSU's leading WR on the year, but the rest of your post rings true.

    The thought preseason was that 4 returning OL starters + Bell being a full time back + stout defense = enough time for the passing O to gel. What happened was OL started getting injured (only 1 of those 4 returning OL starters was playing on Saturday against UM) and no one was expecting Notre Dame to be THAT good defensively. Burbridge, the true FR receiver who's averaging over 80 yards since starting vs. Indiana, was injured during the fall and just finally got the playbook down.

    I would kill to have UW's OL for 1 season. The offensive line development has been nothing short of abysmal. I'm thinking it's an S&C problem; this makes 2 straight years with at least 4 OL in the main playing group being severely injured. That's ridiculous.

    The Spartan WRs have actually come on strong in recent weeks, though the rainstorm that was the Iowa game kind of obscured that. Issue for me is that with Dion Sims being out, MSU's passing O is missing that TE element. I think with Sims healthy, plus Burbridge and Mumphery, MSU would have the bare minimum # of receivers to have an effective pro-style passing O. If Fowler can build on his strong catch against UM (the highlight is ridiculous if you haven't seen it), State could even end up with a good passing O by the end of the year.

    All of it is a moot point this week; MSU is not beating Wisconsin. This is game #9 in a row for them, there's no momentum and it's a road game in one of the 3 toughest venues to play at in the conference (and one where MSU hasn't won since . . . 2001?). On top of that, they're playing a physical team that's getting stronger and stronger as the season's going on. I think this is going to be rock bottom for the Spartans. State is good for one big road blowout/year since 2008, and this looks like it'll be it.

    Michigan State does not and will not run the 3-4 defense.

  • Try and be a bigger dick. Seriously; Rocky is nice enough to come over and take time to talk Spartan football and you post this? Not the place for this.

    If God dwells inside us, like some people say, I sure hope He likes enchiladas, because that's what He's getting

  • It's ok; MSU was very optimistic earlier in the year and have fallen quite far. His post isn't as bad as many I've seen.

    MSU's depth chart comes out today. I'll post all the notable changes here. Let me know if you guys have any other questions; right now I'm expecting a close first half with UW pulling away in the 2nd. One thing I observed is that both teams are playing their 9th straight game. Mental and physical fatigue could play a role in this one.

    Michigan State does not and will not run the 3-4 defense.

  • Depth Chart Update:

    MSU lists 12 starters on offense: 5 OL, a TE, FB, RB and 3 WRs. Here are the notable changes:

    Top 3 WRs are Aaron Burbridge (true FR, 6'1 190) at the "X" receiver spot (#1 WR), Bennie Folwer (RS JR, 6'1 218) at the "Flanker" spot (#2 outside WR) and Keith Mumphery (RS Soph, 6'0 208) at the "Z" receiver spot (slot WR). Mumphery leads the team in total receiving yards, Burbridge is #1 in terms of yards/start (he's only started the last 3 games) and Fowler has the most TD catches (umm . . . 2). Prior to this week, Tony Lippett (RS Soph, 6'3 190) was the #1 "Flanker", but Fowler played well against UM. Fowler was the starting "X" at the beginning of the year.

    At LT, it'll be incumbent Dan France (RS JR, 6'6 316) OR redshirt freshman Donovan Clark (6'3 302). Clark started against Michigan while France was injured and performed well.

    At LG, it'll be Blake Treadwell, making his 2nd straight start. Treadwell missed the first 4-5 games of the year with a leg fracture and played his first full game against Michigan. He was the projected opening day starter at LG.

    At C, it'll be Jack Allen, who started the first 7 games at LG. He's more of a natural C (6'1 295) and moved to C against the Wolverines.

    At FB, the top 2 guys are injured (RS Soph Niko Palazeti, 6'0 250 and RS FR Lawrence Thomas, 6'3 295) so it'll be RS FR walk-on Trevon Pendleton. TP did not play well against UM.

    Defensively, the only notable changes are:

    At 3-tech DT, James Kittredge (RS Soph, Vandy Transfer, 6'2 272) has a starting role locked up.

    At the STAR (WILL) LB spot, it's SR Captain Chris Norman OR true Soph Taiwan Jones (6'3 230). Jones played a lot against Indiana and Iowa, though Norman had a good showing against Michigan. Both will rotate; speculation is that Norman is a bit banged up, but Jones has provided a lot of burst at LB over the past few weeks.

    FS has been a spot in flux all year, but it looks like RS Soph Kurtis Drummond (6'1 200) has the spot locked up.

    Any changes for UW this week?

    Michigan State does not and will not run the 3-4 defense.

  • Nothing that seems to be out of the ordinary. There is talk of James White starting over Montee Ball, but they're pretty much 1a and 1b at this point. Everything else seems to be about status quo.
    Another question, how's Demetrious Cox doing? That was a big recruiting loss for us.

    If God dwells inside us, like some people say, I sure hope He likes enchiladas, because that's what He's getting

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  • Cox is red-shirting this year. He was in the mix for the FS spot, but RS JR Jairus Jones beat out everyone in the fall . . . only to be injured and have Kurtis Drummond "Wally Pip" him. As it stands, I expect Cox to work into the mix next year at both safety spots and in the Nickel package; MSU loses 2 safeties in 2013. He may also get some play in the wildcat formation.

    Only true FR to play for MSU this year have been WRs Burbridge and Kings (Slot receiver/end around specialist) and the long snapper. Going the Wisconsin/Iowa route of Red-shirting 95% of the classes; there's only 1 true soph on the roster (WLB Taiwan Jones).

    Michigan State does not and will not run the 3-4 defense.

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    Michigan State does not and will not run the 3-4 defense.