Michigan State Preview 2006 Further Analysis
Michigan State Spartans
Posted Aug 6, 2006

Michigan State Spartans Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

1st and Ten – How to blow a season in ten seconds – Admit it, there are those of you who went to see that movie “How to lose a guy in ten days”.  Alright, so maybe it’s too difficult to admit that you sat in on a chick flick, but Kate Hudson’s character did all she could within her power to prove that she could lose a guy with her feminine wiles in only ten days.  Well, it wasn’t Kate Hudson and it definitely wasn’t with bad intentions, but in Columbus, OH on October 15, 2005, all it took was one play to send the Spartans into a free fall, from which they never recovered.  One botched field goal, blocked for a touchdown, turned a potential bowl game season into, well, a season blown in ten seconds.  Now, enough readers know that football games aren’t lost on one play, and there’s no conclusive evidence that one play causes a team to lose five of six, including that Ohio State game.  But, if ever a team sustained a singular blow to the head, figuratively speaking, that it never could recover from, it was John L’s team in 2005.  Perhaps the final blow was delivered in the Northwestern game.  After an MSU touchdown, Northwestern, wait, STOP THE NIGHTMARE.  Okay, sorry.  The point is that the mental breakdown in the Ohio State game hovered over the Spartans seemingly all season long.  It can’t filter through to 2006.  If you don’t think one play can define a team, a program and a coach, talk to Kevin Steele about his time at Baylor (the infamous 1999 UNLV game was the defining moment for Steele and he never recovered).  Whereas the pressure will fall on Smith to ensure that his coaching staff is on the same page throughout the year, the senior leaders also carry the responsibility of wiping that memory from the collective conscience of the Spartan players.  The Spartans have an extremely fair schedule, considering that they only have two difficult road games (Michigan and Penn State) and a non-conference road tilt at Pitt.  The rest?  East Lansing.  So, this should be very interesting, including the rematch with the Big Ten favorite Buckeyes.

2nd and Seven – Stanton’s legacy – Every time that QB Drew Stanton steps on the field this fall, every eye in the stadium will hone in on his every movement.  And, with a potential lucrative NFL career on the horizon, there may be a few more eyes than usual on Stanton and what he does.  Consequently, he does pretty much all of it, and does it extremely well.  Run it.  Throw it.  Escape danger.  Score points.  Play with toughness and grit.  If he were allowed to play special teams (as he did earlier in his career) and defense, he’d be Gordie Lockbaum-esque.  But, the man hasn’t been able to lead his Spartans to a bowl game.  For all of the grotesque numbers that he’s piled up on the stat sheet, the only ‘stat’ that matters, the one that starts with a W, is the one most lacking.  Some argue that Stanton can only answer for the offensive’s production, week in and week out, but if that’s truly the case, why was Vince Young thought to be so valuable to the Texas Longhorns last year?  Stanton’s play speaks volumes, but his gutty attitude must permeate this entire team – offense, defense, special teams, coaching staff and the guys selling popcorn in the stands (can’t forget them).  Only then will the true measure of his legacy be realized, that and if the Spartans head to a bowl game.

3rd and Three – Triple play – Outside of Stanton and his receiving corps, the most experienced and well-rounded unit on the field this year for the Spartans is the trio at linebacker.  Kaleb Thornhill, David Herron, Jr. and SirDarean Adams all return to the MSU defense, and this threesome will form the nucleus of this defense for 2006.  As a group, these linebackers combined for 188 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss and five sacks.  For good measure, Adams racked up 3 interceptions, one of which he brought back for a pick six against Notre Dame.  But, giving up 165 yards per game against the run isn’t going to help them win too many games this fall.  This group can run and is physical, but the loss of Domata Peko, Michael Bazemore and Brandon McKinney might put too much pressure on them to fight through blocks and make 75+ tackles each.

4th and One – “Yo, who brought the Ringer?” – Michigan State’s sophomore Javon Ringer is a multi-dimensional threat who can do a little bit of everything, and for as good as Drew Stanton is, Ringer has to be this offense’s multi-dimensional, game-breaking threat.  The 5’9”, 195 pounder is a solid blend of quickness, shake and speed.  Lots of speed.  The Spartans offense should allow Ringer some space and freedom to get out in the open field and away from the ‘mesh’ in the middle.  Regardless of how dangerous he will be in the open field, opposing defenses must funnel him back to the middle of the field to see if he wants to, and can, run effectively between the tackles.  With AJ Jimmerson emerging this spring, the duo of he and Ringer could be used simultaneously to put a ton of pressure on Big Ten defenses.

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