There hasn’t been a more steady program or coaching staff in the Big Ten than Michigan State over the last decade. However, things are changing this offseason with former defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi off to Pitt as the head coach.
So, as spring camp unfolded, how did the defensive change look and feel? What about all the offensive losses?
We we bring in one of the foremost Spartan experts, Hondo Carpenter, of Spartan Nation to discuss all those topics and more.
Don’t forget to follow on Twitter @HondoCarpenter.
Let’s take a look at what went down in East Lansing, shall we?
Talking10: What player and position was the biggest surprise for you this spring?
Hondo Carpenter: I don’t want to go position here, but I do want to talk about one side of the ball. Defense. The Spartan D was down last year from the previous season, and while this group will not be better than the 2013 Rose Bowl unit they will be better than 2014. With perhaps the best DL IN THE NATION and an upgrade at MLB with Riley Bullough the questions come at CB. However that is not as concerning considering the Spartans have had two 1st round CB’s selected in the past two NFL drafts in Darqueze Dennard in 2014 to the Bengals and Trae Waynes this year to the Vikings.
T10: No Pat Narduzzi, no problem…at least that is the way we saw it from the outside looking in. How has the defensive transition looked now that spring football is over?
Hondo: Fine, but Narduzzi’s presence wouldn’t be as missed now. Here are the two biggest ways Pat impacted this team. He was the energy guy for both sides of the ball. How many times did you see them on TV making a big deal of him running down to the field from the press box in the fourth quarter to energize the troops. Narduzzi’s presence is already sorely missed. It will be felt even more in the fall. Secondly the other place he will be missed is in Mark Dantonio’s office. He and Coach D were very tight. Often Narduzzi was the only one who would speak up to Dantonio and say some things that others, let’s just say aren’t willing to do. His being a voice of reality and perhaps being a person who can help his head coach by not agreeing with everything is a well underserved school of thought.
T10: Connor Cook has been a godsend for this offense, but there were a lot of questions at wide receiver entering spring ball. What is your assessment of the position group coming out of spring? MSU offense: better, worse or about the same (as last year)? Why?
Hondo: Worse. They lose Jeremy Langford, Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery to the NFL. All major skill players. The two biggest WR’s coming back are Aaron Burbridge and Macgarrett Kings who are annually under achievers to be kind and an unsettled RB position. They do return two potential first round picks in the 2015 NFL Draft in LT Jack Conklin and QB Connor Cook, but with the skill positions not being settled, that is concerning news at best. Cook has shown an inherit ability to take bad risks and lose his technique and make ill-advised throws, however he has also been fortunate in the immense number of dropped interceptions from opponents. I think Cook will be improved, but WR and RB in doubt doesn’t allow Cook to run for 100 yards and catch 15 balls thrown to himself.
T10: There are still plenty of names everyone following MSU football from the outside know about. However, what players should the casual fan get used to hearing about this fall if they don’t already know them?
Hondo: LJ Scott. Incoming true freshman RB. Could be the best RB recruit of the Dantonio era and if he can live up to the hype the Spartans offense may have some major skill position help. I NEVER put faith in any freshman, but if he can put it together the Spartans chances at a title grow exponentially higher.
Monty Madaris and AJ Troup. Two often injured WR’s that have been dazzling when healthy. They had great springs and have proven an ability for flashes in the past. If this is their year look out. I have zero faith in the Spartans top two WR’s right now so they must have an emergence from these two immediately.
Jamal Lyles TE. A big tough kid that didn’t drop a ball thrown to him last year, but he didn’t get many. With questions at WR, this spot could be a monster if Lyles can continue to grow. Everyone knows Josiah Price, if Lyles can take a step there might be enough at TE to overcome at WR.
T10: Did spring ball give you more or less confidence that this team can be a legit Big Ten title contender?
Hondo: I don’t see this team beating OSU and that would be to ONLY win the Big Ten East. I think Oregon at home is a very good game, and while the Spartans have blemishes, the Ducks are loaded needing only to fix the hole left at QB with Marcus Mariota leaving via the NFL draft to the Titans. The only other legitimate threat to MSU is a late season night game in Lincoln against a great coach in Mike Riley and a team that by that time should be grasping what he is doing. Right now I would say they have one game I totally see as a loss in OSU and two others (Oregon, Nebraska) that are concerning so assuming they go one and one there let’s declare 10-2 and they are headed back to the Rose Bowl. That would be a very solid and good season.