Preview 2007 - Offense
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What you need to know: In
keeping with the overall belief system of the new coaching
staff, the offense will try to become more physical and should
play to the strength, which will be running the ball. The line
is big, and now has to start hitting to open things up for the
speedy duo of Javon Ringer and A.J. Jimmerson and the pounding
Jehuu Caulcrick. All eyes will be on Brian Hoyer, who might not
be Drew Stanton talent-wise, but should be a more consistent
quarterback as long as the receiving corps, which loses the top
three targets, becomes productive right away.
Passing: Brian Hoyer
82-144, 863 yds, 4 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Javon Ringer
86 carries, 497 yds, 1 TD
25 catches, 281 yds, 3 TD
Star of the offense: Junior RB Javon Ringer
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior QB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR T.J. Williams
Best pro prospect: Senior TE Kellen Davis
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Ringer, 2) Davis, 3) OT
Strength of the offense: Running backs, offensive line
Weakness of the offense:
Quarterback depth, proven wide
Projected Starter: Junior Brian Hoyer won't run
like Drew Stanton, he won't make all the same plays, and he
won't get the NFL scouts drooling, but he could turn out to be a
more effective player. He's 6-2 and 212 pounds with good smarts
and a nice enough arm to make every throw needed, and he won't
have to carry the attack like Stanton did. He'll have to keep
the chains moving, limit mistakes, and he'll have to be steady,
not necessarily spectacular. He showed a little bit of what he
could do at the end of last year throwing for 330 yards and a
score, with two interceptions, against Minnesota and 291 yards
and a touchdown against Penn State, but the Spartans lost both
Projected Top Reserves: 6-4, 191-pound redshirt
freshman Connor Dixon will combine with sophomore Clay
Charles for the number two job, with Dixon the likely top
backup. The two will battle all year long for playing time, but
the starting gig is clearly Hoyer's for the next two seasons.
Watch Out For ... Keith Nichol. The superstar recruit
was all but signed, sealed and delivered to the Spartans, and
then he did an about-face and decided to go to Oklahoma. He
would've provided some serious competition for Hoyer, who now is
the unquestioned number one.
Strength: Hoyer's steadiness. It was almost like
the old coaching staff wasn't totally sure what to do with
Stanton. He was too good to not have developed into a more
special player. Hoyer is going to be an even-keel quarterback
who won't get MSU beat.
Weakness: Backups. Dixon and Charles have gotten more than their
share of off-season snaps, but neither one appears to be much of
a challenger for anything more than backup duty. There's a big
drop-off if Hoyer goes down.
Outlook: There was absolutely no pressure on Hoyer
when he got his chances last year, but that changes completely
going into this year. While he might not have to throw for 300
yards a game for MSU to succeed, he has to be good. He has the
arm and the command, and now he has to be good.
Projected Starters: 5-9, 202-pound junior Javon
Ringer appeared on the way to a monster season, and then he
suffered a knee injury against Illinois and was out for several
games. He chose to rehab rather than have surgery, but he wasn't
nearly the same back over the final three games. Before the
injury, he has 4.4 speed with the home run hitting ability to
strike from anywhere on the field. Even after missing several
games, he led the team with 497 yards and a score and caught 14
passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. While he has power, he's
never been used as a workhorse, never getting more than 18
carries, but he looked as good as new this spring and should be
used even more.
Former tight end Dwayne Holmes, who caught three passes
for 27 yards, is a big, physical 275 pounds and should be a
strong blocker. The junior was a good high school running back
and linebacker, and while he might not see many carries, he'll
get the ball his way a few times here and there.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-0, 255-pound senior
Jehuu Caulcrick filled in when Ringer got hurt, but he
didn't exactly carry the running game with only 426 yards and a
team-leading six scores. He's a power back who's the thunder to
Ringer's lightning, and he should be a killer when the offense
wants to pound the ball with the new emphasis on running the
ball. The former linebacker will be great around the goal line.
Sophomore A.J. Jimmerson is a speed back who needs the
ball more in space. Fourth on the team with 140 yards and two
scores, and only a 3.8 yard-per-carry average, along with 12
catches for 63 yards and two scores, he could become a bit of a
third down back and be used more as a receiver with good hands
and the quickness to make something happen on his own.
Watch Out For ... a lot more work to be passed
around. Brian Hoyer isn't the runner Drew Stanton was, so expect
more carries, more responsibility, and more production.
Strength: Options. Ringer and Caulcrick are a
perfect 1-2 combination that'll give defenses several different
looks. Jimmerson can come in and add even more speed and flash.
Weakness: Ringer's workload. He's had two career knee injuries
and he's never been the type of back who can carry the offense
with a 25-carry game. The ground game all but shut down once he
got hurt last year, and even with Jimmerson looking better,
there might be problems if the knee fails.
Outlook: The veteran backs should be licking their
chops at the prospect of getting more work. The offense will be
more balanced, and the coaching staff wants to run and run some
more to set up the passing game. With the expected improvement
of the line, the chances will be there for a big season from all
three top backs as long as they stay healthy. Using a fullback
for the first time in several years, MSU will have even more
options in the backfield.
Projected Starters: This is the team's
biggest issue after losing the top three receivers. 5-11,
173-pound senior Terry Love was fifth on the team with 18
catches for 234 yards, and now he has to be consistent along
with being dangerous. He's fast enough to stretch the field and
provide the deep threat to open things up for the running game,
and he should be good enough to get the ball in a variety of
ways to utilize his athleticism.
6-1, 199-pound junior Deon Curry only caught one pass for
seven yards, and now has to use his size, athleticism, and 4.5
speed to take over for Matt Trannon. He's a deep threat who has
the potential to blow up and live up to his prep hype.
With the question marks at receiver, the veteran tight ends have
to play up to their talent, especially 6-6, 254-pound senior
Kellen Davis. He has all the potential in the world with
size, strength, speed, and the skill to become a top NFL draft
pick. However, he hasn't made it happen yet with only 12 catches
for 125 yards and a score last year, and he hasn't been much of
a blocker. If the light turns on, he'll be a star.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-3, 184-pound sophomore
T.J. Williams is the team's leading returning receiver
with 25 catches for 281 yards and three scores. He didn't have a
dominant breakout performance, but he was steady over the second
half of the season. He'll start out the year combining with
Curry, and he'll be a key player in three-wide sets. He has a
great motor with the type of attitude that should make him into
a number one target in time.
Behind Love, and adding more size, is 6-2, 214-pound junior
Devin Thomas, who has talent, but only caught six passes for
90 yards and a score. The former JUCO transfer was a nice
reserve who should flourish once he gets more playing time.
Behind Davis at tight end is 6-4, 246-pound senior Eric
Andino, who caught two passes for 15 yards. He'll be a good
blocker and should be used more in the passing game. He's not
anywhere near the athlete that Davis is, but he can play a
bigger role in the passing game.
Watch Out For ... the incoming freshmen. The veteran
returning receivers aren't all that bad, but Mark Dell,
Chris D. Rucker and B.J. Cunningham are all going
to be key targets over the next few seasons. In a perfect world,
they'll redshirt, but at least one should see time in the
Strength: Tight end. Davis might look like Tarzan
and play like Jane, but he has the talent to grow into something
special if the coaching staff can light a fire under him. Andino
is going to become a nice, reliable receiver in time.
Weakness: A true number one. There are good prospects, and Love
and Williams have number one receiver potential, but there isn't
anyone who's emerged as a dangerous target who'll keep defensive
coordinators awake at night.
Outlook: The overall roles of the receivers will
be reduced with more of an emphasis on the running game, but
that that doesn't mean the passing game will be forgotten about.
Considering the Spartans lose Kerry Reed, Matt Trannon and
Jerramy Scott, the corps should be fine. Everyone can move and
everyone should be able to rack up yards after the catch. The
key will be to find reliable third down receivers who can not
only get open on key plays, but also block downfield to open
things up a bit.
Projected Starters: Everything should come
together once 6-7, 307-pound senior Mike Gyetvai is back from a
shoulder problem that kept him out of spring ball. A good veteran who
has seen time at both tackle spots, he's the line's best pass protector,
when healthy, and an imposing force who should be better now that he
gets to be more physical.
Next to Gyetvai will be 6-7, 316-pound senior Pete Clifford, a
veteran backup who hasn't lived up to his enormous potential. He's big,
tough, and versatile, able to play either guard or tackle if needed. He
moved in at left tackle this spring when Gyetvai was out.
The other new full-time starter will be at center, where 6-4, 285-pound
senior John Masters should be ready to roll after filling in as
the starter over the final three games of last year. A long-time backup,
he's been around long enough to be a good quarterback up front, and he
should be strong in the running game.
The right side is set with the return of juniors Roland Martin
and Jesse Miller to their starting spots. They both took their
lumps throughout last year, but they have immense potential and could
grow into fringe all-stars before their careers are up. The 6-5,
325-pound Martin should be a dominator at right guard. A star recruit
for the program a few years ago, he has yet to live up to the hype and
needs to be more consistent, but he has all the measurables. The 6-6,
307-pound Miller emerged and played well enough to allow Gyetvai to stay
at left tackle throughout the season. He has a world of upside.
Projected Top Reserves: The Spartans have a few
good backups who saw time after all the injuries that hit last year. The
most experienced of the bunch is sophomore Rocco Cironi, who
filled in at tackle and earned Big Ten All-Freshman accolades with two
starts and plenty of backup work. He's 6-6, 300 pounds, and tough at
left tackle behind Gyetvai.
6-5, 325-pound senior Kenny Shane is a nice reserve who filled in
at left guard this spring when Clifford moved over to tackle. He started
in three games last season, and while he's not the best of pass
blockers, he's physical and can get after defenders to open up holes.
Watch Out For ... the right side to grow into
something special over the next few years. Martin and Miller are big,
talented prospects who are just now coming into their own. They should
flourish under the new regime.
Strength: Size. Now this is a Big Ten-sized line.
Very tall, very big, and very promising, the beef is there to power the
ball the way the coaching staff wants.
Weakness: Pass protection. As much as everyone will want to run
this year, the line will still need to be better in pass protection
after allowing 28 sacks and a ton of other pressures. More consistency
should come as long as everyone is healthy.
Outlook: Every offensive lineman worth his salt
wants to hit defenders in a power running game. Now the offense will fit
the personnel, as Mike Dantonio will look to use all the size and
strength up front to power the ball a bit more. This is a veteran group
that'll be much better than it'll initially get credit for.