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Michigan State Spartans Football Preview: State of the 2017 offense

Michigan State Week continues, as we look ahead to the 2017 season. Up next is a look at the good and bad news for the Spartans offense.

All this week we will be taking a look at the 2017 Michigan State Spartans football season here at talking10. To say it has been eventful year since we last did this would be an understatement.

But, after taking time yesterday to look back at what took place in 2016 and the offseason, it is now time to look forward.

Preview Posts: Lessons from 2016 |

We begin that journey with a look at what Michigan State’s offense may look like in 2017. Given the lackluster 3-9 season MSU suffered last year, is the offense back on track and ready to bring the Spartans closer to a return to the College Football Playoff?

Let’s look at what is happening in East Lansing as we lead in to fall camp.

The Good News Is…

Things really can’t get much worse on the scoring front. I mean, Michigan State ranked 12th in the conference in scoring (24.1 points per game) and all. Oh, and the 289 points scored on the season were only better than Rutgers and Illinois.

Congrats MSU, you were good at racking up a ton of yards on the ground (6th in rushing offense) and through the air (5th in passing offense), but it didn’t add up to the points that won games. While that may signal a bleak future ahead, the good news is that has to be rock bottom for the Spartans offense.

No seriously, it has to be, because if it isn’t, look for Mark Dantonio’s already hot seat (thanks to offseason transgressions by players in the program) is likely to only get hotter.

The Bad News Is…

Whether it was Lewerke or anyone else, quarterback play left a lot to be desired in 2016. It does appear that Lewerke was beginning to show signs of being a quality quarterback, but that was cut short with an injury suffered in the Michigan game.

After just two and a bit of a third start, Lewerke’s progress was put on the shelf for awhile. He’s earned the starting job heading out of spring ball, but Dantonio, in true Dantonio fashion, has left the door a crack open for competition to arise this fall.

Tyler O’Connor is gone, while Damion Terry’s once promising career has apparently stalled out before his final season in East Lansing. Then there is redshirt freshman Messiah deWeaver, who has been in the mix but not a likely candidate for playing time just yet.

Lewerke may end up being something, but this is a group that had underachieved given its hype coming in to college to date. Having an unsettled and unproven quarterback situation hasn’t exactly been a good sign for MSU teams of the past.

Will Lewerke buck the trend and solidify his mark on the program? It’s a big question and the bad news is we simply didn’t get to see enough to know the answer in 2016.

The Good News Is…

Despite all the challenges the Spartans faced in 2016, the running game wasn’t one of them. In fact, MSU actually was a more formidable team last season on the ground than the previous year. That was in large part due to the returning LJ Scott, who is back for more in 2017. Scott nearly hit the 1,000-yard mark, while Gerald Holmes was good secondary option.

While those numbers weren’t earth-shattering, given all that was going on around them, Scott and Holmes held up as a good 1-2 duo to build off of. Things should be even brighter for this group this upcoming season, after all, there’s more stability around them in terms of a pass game worth anything.

The Bad News Is…

Michigan State’s offensive line has a lot of players, but not a lot of chemistry as we speak. It’s the second year in a row one could say that. No loss is bigger than Thiyo Lukusa, who became a starter in his freshman season last year, but didn’t have the drive to play the game anymore and quit the team in the offseason.

Luckily Brian Allen is back to anchor this line, but is that really a great thing? There’s no doubt he’s a talented player on the interior of the line, but he was also around last season and that group couldn’t put it all together. I mean, has anyone heard of names like Dennis Finley and Devyn Salmon, who are expected to step in to starting roles as seniors following very limited playing time in their first three years on campus.

Recruiting has been helpful as of late, with names like Matt Allen, A.J. Arcuri and Luke Campbell all impressing in scout team duty while they waited their turn last year. Let’s just say another season of unsettled offensive line play would be less than ideal.

What it all comes down to is an offensive line that is going to have a lot to prove heading in to 2017, despite the experience they got last season.

What it Means for 2017:

One theme is going to carry over from the offseason to looking ahead to the season — uncertainty. There’s uncertainty as to what the long-term prospects for this offense is with Lewerke leading it at quarterback. There’s uncertainty as to whom he will be throwing the football to and there’s great uncertainty as to who will be protecting him.

Michigan State better hope answers come to these questions in fall camp or it may be another bumpy ride for the offense this upcoming season.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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