The Spartan Word


MSU Football: Spartan fan’s 2013 dream depth chart vs. 2013 actual depth chart

Posted in MSU Football by Sean Merriman, BTN.com web editor on July 24, 2013

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Michigan State’s 2013 preseason depth chart was released for the first time today at Big Ten Media Day here in Chicago.

In honor of the big day, let’s go ahead and take a look at the current, updated depth chart, and compare it to who I believe the Spartan fans would ideally like to see in those spots.

Keep in mind that there wasn’t a single true freshman listed on the two-deep chart, however, that certainly won’t stop me from adding a few to the fans’ “dream depth chart.”

With that said, lets get this started.

Offense

Quarterback

Starter: Andrew Maxwell

Fan Pick: Damion Terry

It looks like Maxwell will maintain the starting quarterback spot heading into the fall, and that is probably the safe pick, but Spartan fans have already began their campaign to see heralded freshman quarterback Damion Terry behind center in 2013.

Running Back

Starter: Riley Bullough

Fan Pick: Gerald Holmes

Bullough impressed in fall camp, but there is a lot of hype surrounding Holmes heading into this season, including numerous comparisons to Le’veon Bell.

Fullback

Starter: Trevon Pendleton

Fan Pick: Niko Palazeti

Palazeti was a fan-favorite before an injury knocked him down the depth chart last season. If you happened to see this kid play at Detroit Catholic Central, you would want him lining up in your backfield as well.

Wide Receiver Z

Starter: Keith Mumphrey

Fan Pick: DeAnthony Arnett

There isn’t a single more-talked about player in the MSU program than DeAnthony Arnett. The Spartan faithful want to see what this former four-star recruit can do.

Wide Receiver X

Starter: Bennie Fowler

Fan Pick: Monty Madaris

Fowler was a fan-favorite heading into the 2012 season, but after a mediocre junior campaign which featured plenty of drops, fans are calling for redshirt freshman Monty Madaris, a mega-recruit from the same high school that produced the likes of Greg Jones and Marcus Rush.

Wide Receiver F

Starter: Aaron Burbridge

Fan Pick: Burbridge

We finally have a match. Burbridge was one of the few MSU receivers who showed big-play ability last season, and the talented pass-catcher looks poised for a big sophomore campaign.

Tight End

Starter: Andrew Gleichert

Fan Pick: Paul Lang

The tight end spot is a huge position of concern for the Spartans entering the 2013 season. Andrew Gleichert is listed as the preseason starter, but if we had to choose a fan pick here, let’s go with Paul Lang, simply because he had one of the few big catches against in-state rival Michigan last  year.

Left Tackle

Starter: Dan France OR Donovan Clark

Fan Pick: France

Another match! France has been solid since making the move to the offensive line. France made the move to guard in the spring, but it looks like he is back at tackle now, which should settle well with the MSU fan base.

Left Guard

Starter: Blake Treadwell

Fan Pick: Treadwell

Anyone who follows Michigan State football closely roots for Blake Treadwell to succeed. The former East Lansing High star  is an exceptional kid who has overcome numerous injuries throughout his collegiate career. If he can stay healthy, look for Treadwell to help solidify this offensive line unit in 2013.

Center

Starter: Travis Jackson

Fan Pick: Jackson

Jackson was a freshman All-American in 2011 and had huge expectations heading into last season before he was went down with a season-ending injury against Ohio State. Fans are hoping to see a healthy Jackson in 2013, which would be a huge boost for this MSU offensive line.

Right Guard

Starter: Jack Allen

Fan Pick: Allen

Allen was recruited as a center but spent time at guard last season before Jackson went down with an injury. The versatile Allen was named a freshman All-American by the Sporting News last year. That certainly helps certify his status as an MSU fan favorite.

Right Tackle

Starter: Fou Fonoti

Fan Pick: Fonoti

Fonoti is expected back from an injury that cost him the majority of the 2012 season. He is expected to be one of the veteran anchors of this MSU offensive line.

Defense

Defensive End

Starter: Shilique Calhoun

Fan Pick: Calhoun

There isn’t a single player listed on this depth chart that has had as much hype surrounding his name heading into the 2013 season as Calhoun. The fans hope Calhoun can back up that hype with his play out on the field.

Defensive Tackle

Starter: Tyler Hoover

Fan Pick: Lawrence Thomas

Hoover enters his 29th year in the Spartan program (not really, but close), and is expected to be the starter at the defensive tackle spot. However, fans are chomping at the bit to see former five-star recruit Thomas on the field as much as possible.

Nose Tackle

Starter: Micajah Reynolds

Fan Pick: James Kittredge

Reynolds was a surprise No.1 on the preseason depth chart last season, but he never quite lived up to the hype. Kittredge is a transfer, which always seems to grab the fans’ attention.

Defensive End

Starter: Marcus Rush

Fan Pick: Rush

Tough to argue with a guy who has started every game of his Spartan career. Rush will be one of the veteran leaders on this defensive line.

Sam Linebacker

Starter: Denicos Allen

Fan Pick: Allen

Allen enters his third season as the Spartans’ starter at the Sam Linebacker position. After a “down year” for his standards in 2012, don’t be surprised to see a bounce-back season from Allen in 2013.

Mike Linebacker

Starter: Max Bullough

Fan Pick: Bullough

One of the top middle linebackers in the country, Bullough is poised for a monster senior season in 2013.

Star Linebacker

Starter: Taiwan Jones or Jarius Jones

Fan Pick: Taiwan Jones

Fans are certainly curious to see what Jarius Jones can do at his new outside linebacker spot, but after an impressive sophomore campaign, those same fans already know what Taiwan Jones can do. Let’s go with the sure thing here.

Cornerback

Starter: Darqueze Denard

Fan Pick: Denard

If Ohio State’s Bradley Roby is suspended for a lengthy period of time, then Denard should be the top cover-corner in the Big Ten this season and a possible All-American candidate.

Cornerback

Starter: Trae Waynes

Fan Pick: Waynes

Waynes has the task of taking over for the graduated Johnny Adams this season. After a solid showing in last year’s Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, why wouldn’t you have elevated expectations for this talented kid heading into the 2013 season?

Free Safety

Starter: Kurtis Drummond

Fan Pick: Demetrious Cox

Drummond performed well at times last season, but fans having been waiting to see what mega-recruit Demetrious Cox can do since he arrived on campus back in 2012. After redshirting last season, fans should get their wish in 2013.

Strong Safety

Starter: Isaiah Lewis

Fan Pick: Lewis

Lewis has had an outstanding career in the Green and White and will look to cap it off with a big senior season. He is as sturdy and reliable as you can get from the safety position.

Special Teams

Kicker

Starter: Kevin Muma or Kevin Cronin

Fan Pick: Michael Geiger

Michigan State struggled in the kicking game last season, and in return, the Spartans brought in the top kicker recruit in the nation in Geiger. Is there really any question about who the fans want to see as the starter?

Punter

Starter: Mike Sadler

Fan Pick: Sadler

Not only is Sadler one of the top punters in the nation, but he is also one of the best dressed players as well. He is the only guy I have ever seen show up to a post-game presser wearing a full-on suit.

MSU Basketball: The truth about why Chris Allen was dismissed from the MSU basketball program

Posted in MSU Basketball by Sean Merriman, BTN.com web editor on July 22, 2013

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It has been an ongoing question on the minds of Michigan State fans, dating back several years now.

What exactly happened to former MSU basketball standout Chris Allen?

Why was he dismissed from the Spartans’ basketball team back in the summer of 2010?

It was a combined effort between the MSU coaching staff, the university athletics department, and a select few members of the media to keep this all a secret.

“There were multiple obligations that Chris had to meet in order to return for his senior season,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo said after making the decision to dismiss Allen from the program. “While he did make progress … he has failed to meet all the obligations and will not be part of our program this fall.”

While this was a truthful statement from Izzo, it was also an extremely vague statement that left fans in limbo for years, often asking what happened to the former Georgia Prep standout?

Just this past weekend, Allen released a statement on his facebook page that explained exactly what happened and what led to his dismissal from the MSU basketball program.

Here is what Allen had to say…

I don’t have to do this but I’m just tired of everyone questioning my character because of some bull that the media led you people to believe … I Chris Allen DID NOT get kicked off Michigan State University team for HAVING SEX with my teammate and very good friend Durrell Summers girlfriend it was because of Smoking the MARYJUWANA lol so for all those who believe the media I pray for y’all and for the fans that question my character because of the media y’all ain’t true fans and to athletes who smoke WEED its not worth it, Yeah it makes you happy and forget all the BS you thought your coach was on with you but at the same time it’s a easy way to get you out of a respectable program and of course it’s deeper than just weed but that’s for me and the people that was at Michigan state those years to know….so there it is people don’t judge me off my mistakes because its my life you should judge me off how I interact with you and not what you hear or what your told hope I helped clear that up cause I’m tired of the bs and I’m too real to hide behind something that has no truth to it so have a nice blessed day people ‪#‎PSA‬

There you have it ladies and gentlemen.

Rumors can often get carried away, and in this case, Allen got sick of the rumor piling up about him and former teammate Durrell Summers’ girlfriend.

To follow up on this story or let your comments be heard on the matter, feel free to comment on my twitter page @srmerriman.

MSU Football: Top Remaining Prospects on Spartans’ Wish List

Posted in MSU Football by Sean Merriman, BTN.com web editor on July 16, 2013

Mark Dantonio and his coaching staff added a huge part to the Spartans’ 2014 class when three-star athlete Matt Morrissey verbally committed to MSU on Monday.

The Lincolnshire (Ill.) Stevenson High standout became the 13th member of the Spartans’ 2014 recruiting class, which ranks among the best in the Big Ten.

Make no mistake, this class is shaping up very nicely, but it is far from complete.

So, we ask, what other top prospects should MSU fans be keeping an eye on as the recruiting cycle continues to heat up?

Let’s take a look at the top remaining positions of need and which prospects could fill those empty spots.

Top Positions of Need

1. Offensive Tackle

Top Prospect on MSU’s Wish List: Nick Richardson, Westerville Central (Westerville, Ohio)

After losing out on Jamarco Jones to Ohio State, Richardson moved to the top of the Spartans’ wish list.

The 6-foot-4, 285-pound Richardson is a four-star prospect and the No. 19-ranked offensive tackle in the nation, according to rivals.com. He has an impressive list of scholarships, but just recently cut his list down to five schools: Indiana, Kentucky, MSU, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.

2. Wide Receiver

Top Prospect on MSU’s Wish List: Jalen Brown, Mountain Pointe (Phoenix, AZ)

Brown has been at the top of the Spartans’ wish list since day one, and Mark Dantonio and his staff are now in the process of trying to get him on campus for an official visit.

Brown, who measures in  at 6-foot-2, 185-pounds, is the No. 4-ranked wide receiver prospect in the nation, according to rivals.com. The popular recruiting site also ranks Brown as the No.50 player overall in the 2014 class rankings.

The four-star standout recently cut his list down to nine college choices. They are Arizona, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oregon, Oregon St., UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin.

Look for Brown to cut his list down to five in the near future.

3. Defensive End

Top Prospect on MSU’s Wish List: Malik McDowell, Loyola (Detroit, MI)

McDowell would be a huge score for MSU, but his lengthy list of suitors makes it tough to believe that the Spartans have the best shot at landing the four-star prospect.

That offer list includes the likes of Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, and USC, in addition to MSU.

It is no surprise that McDowell has so many big-time programs chasing after him. The 6-foot6, 295-pound prospect is the No. 3-ranked strongside defensive end in the nation and the top player in the state of Michigan.

MSU may be surrounded by big name college programs when it comes to landing McDowell’s services, but don’t count out the Spartans quite yet.

4. Running Back

Top Prospect on MSU’s Wish List: Chris James, Notre Dame For Boys (Niles, IL)

The Spartans have been actively recruiting James since day one, and the hope is that it will pay off soon.

James recently cut his list down to five finalists: MSU, Tennessee, Iowa, Pittsburgh and Wisconsin.

Many believe that MSU is the leader for James’ services, and having already received verbal commitments from four other prospects from the Chicago area should certainly help the Spartans chances.

The 5-foot-9, 212-pound James is listed as a three-star prospect and the No. 33-ranked running back in the nation, according to rivals.com.

James’ familiarity with MSU’s campus, facilities and coaching staff should give the Spartans the upper hand in his recruitment.

5. Defensive Back

Top Prospect on MSU’s Wish List: Erick Smith, Glenville (Cleveland, OH)

The Spartans have already received verbal commitments from two defensive backs in Vayante Copeland and Jalen Watts-Jackson.

Morrissey, who was recruited by MSU as an “athlete,” could end up in the defensive backfield, but don’t be surprised to see Mark Dantonio and his coaching staff land one more defensive back prospect in this 2014 class.

If they had it their way, it would be four-star safety Erick Smith.

The 6-foot, 181-pound Smith is a mega recruit with offers already on the table from the likes of Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State and Tennessee, in addition to MSU. Rivals.com ranks Smith as the No. 7 safety prospect in the 2014 class.

Landing a talent like Smith would boost this 2014 defensive back group from good to great.

MSU Football: Spartans’ 2014 Dream Recruiting Class (Defense)

Posted in MSU Football by Sean Merriman, BTN.com web editor on June 18, 2013

Just this past week, The Spartan Word released a piece on MSU’s 2014 Dream Recruiting Class, highlighting the offensive side of the ball.

Now, one week later, we will be take an in-depth look at the defensive side, as we look at those recruits who MSU would love to reel in for the 2014 class.

As always, these decisions are based on realistic expectations and only those players who are considering Michigan State will be used in this article.

Defensive End: Malik McDowell

Many believe that McDowell is a U-M lean, but don’t count the Spartans out just yet.

First-year defensive line coach Ron Burton has done a nice job with his recruitment of McDowell, who is the top in-state prospect in the 2014 class. Rivals.com lists the 6-foot-6, 290 pounds defensive end as the No. 3-ranked strongside defensive end in the nation, and the No. 23-ranked overall prospect in the 2014 class.

McDowell has a long list of school choices, but from the looks of it, I would expect it to come down to MSU, Michigan, UCLA, USC, Ohio State, Florida and Florida State for his services.

At this point, MSU has just as good a chance as anyone.

Defensive Tackle: Craig Evans

The Spartans have already signed an exceptional defensive tackle prospect for the 2014 class in Enoch Smith Jr. However, they are expected to sign several DT’s in this class, and landing Craig Evans in addition to Smith Jr. would be a dream come true for Mark Dantonio and this MSU coaching staff.

As it stands right now, Evans is verbally committed to Wisconsin, but that commitment came before Brett Bielema and his staff made the move to Arkansas. Because of that, Evans has made it well known that he will continue to evaluate schools and take visits throughout the recruiting process.

In other words, his commitment to Wisconsin is about as soft as a verbal commitment can possible be at this point.

Dantonio and the MSU coaching staff have been hot on the trail of the 6-foot-3, 305 four-star prospect. Rivals.com ranks Evans as the No. 16 defensive tackle prospect in the nation, as well as the top prospect in the state of Wisconsin.

Keep an eye on Evans’ recruitment in the upcoming months. If the Spartans are able to land both Evans and Smith, they could very-well have one of the top defensive tackle tandems in the nation for years to come.

Outside Linebacker: Byron Bullough (verbally committed)

The Spartans made it a point to address the linebacker position early on in this 2014 class. With that said, Mark Dantonio and his staff have already landed two promising outside linebackers in Byron Bullough and Chris Frey.

The Bullough legacy is no secret when it comes to MSU football. Older brother Max will enter his third season as the Spartans’ starting middle linebacker  and is a preseason Butkus Award nominee. Riley is a redshirt freshman and a candidate to be the Spartans’ starting tailback this fall after making the move there this past spring.

But many people have said that the younger Byron could very-well be the best of the three, which is scary to think about.

With two solid outside backers’ already in the mix, I wouldn’t be surprised if MSU stood pat on the outside linebacker position for the remainder of the 2014 recruiting cycle. Bullough was the first Spartan commitment, and when it’s all said and done, he could be the best of the group as well.

Middle Linebacker: Deon Drake (verbally committed)

As mentioned in the previous graph, MSU got off to a great start when it comes to recruiting the linebacker position in 2014.

The most coveted prospect in this group is Detroit Cass Tech standout Deon Drake.

The  6-foot-1, 215 pound Drake is a four-star prospect and the No. 17-ranked inside linebacker in the nation, according to rivals.com.

Drake gave a verbal commitment to the Spartans back in September, choosing MSU over the likes of Notre Dame, Nebraska and Pittsburgh. He joins class of 2013 teammate Dennis Finley, and could begin to sway other Cass Tech teammates away from Michigan and towards MSU.

At least that is the hope for Spartan fans….

Cornerback: Lamont Simmons

Simmons may be the best player that you’ve never heard of.

Unlike many top prospects across the nation, Simmons does not attend many recruiting camps, which in return, gives him little publicity from national recruiting sites.

However, all you have to do is take a look at this kid’s offer list to get an idea of how talented he truly is.

In addition to MSU, the 6-foot-2, 185 pound cornerback already has offers from the likes of Georgia, Tennessee, Auburn, Arkansas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Many believe that the Florida native could stay down South, but he has made it clear that MSU is in his top-five.

My personal belief is that MSU has yet to offer in-state corners Jalen Watts-Jackson (Orchard Lake St. Marys) and Jalen Embry (Detroit King) because they are waiting to see if they can land another elite level corner in this class.

Simmons would fit that description perfectly.

Safety: Matt Morrissey

Just like Byron Bullough, adding Morrissey to the Spartans’ 2014 class would give MSU yet another legacy recruit.

His father, Jim, was a four-year football player at MSU from 1981-84, twice earning All-Big Ten honors before going on to have a nine-year NFL career. Matt’s sister, Anna, is preparing for her junior season at MSU as a member of the women’s basketball team.

Rivals.com ranks Morrissey as a three-star prospect and the No. 28 player in the state of Illinois.

In addition to MSU, the 6-foot-3, 185 pound safety also has offers from Boston College and Illinois, with Wisconsin also showing serious interest in his recruitment.

If Wisconsin does indeed pull the trigger on an offer, this one should come down to the Badgers and Spartans in what could be an extended Big Ten recruiting battle.

MSU Football: Spartans 2014 Dream Recruiting Class (Offense)

Posted in MSU Football by Sean Merriman, BTN.com web editor on June 10, 2013

I know it’s stating the obvious, but no one loves Mondays, right?

They always seem to drag on and you know it’s the first day of a full work-week ahead. So instead of drooping your head and dreading the work week, we’ve decided to have a little bit of fun this Monday at the Spartan Word.

We’re going to go ahead and take a look ahead at MSU’s 2014 recruiting class and provide a dream-scenario at each and every position for the Spartans’ upcoming 2014 recruiting class.

Let’s start with the offensive side of the ball today, and move to defense on Tuesday.

These decisions are based on realistic expectations and only those players who are considering Michigan State will be used in this article.

With that said, let’s have some fun and get this thing going.

Quarterback: Chris Durkin (Already signed)

Durkin committed to the Spartans back in late-March and will likely be the only quarterback signed in this 2014 class.

The Youngstown, Ohio prospect has exceptional size at 6-foot-4, 234 pounds and outstanding arm strength. He adds another young, promising quarterback to the Spartans roster, joining 2013 four-star recruit Damion Terry.

Rivals.com ranks Durkin as the No. 15 pro-style quarterback prospect in the nation for the 2014 class. He is currently listed as a high three-star prospect, but that star-ranking could be elevated when the next set of updated rankings are released.

Durkin committed to the Spartans early on, despite having multiple offers from the likes of Cal, Illinois, Indiana and Northwestern.

Running Back: Chris James

I was debating whether or not to put Shai McKenzie (Washington, PA) in this spot, but the more and more I read about this kid, it seems like he is leaning towards committing to Pitt any day now.

Because of that, Chris James gets the nod for the Spartans’ dream running back in the 2014 class, and that dream could very well turn into a reality sooner than later.

James has come out and said that the Spartans’ are amongst his leaders, and that’s great news for Mark Dantonio and this 2014 class. MSU was one of the first programs to offer James and the love is clearly mutual.

The 5-foot-9, 212 pound prospect has seen his stock soar over the past couple of months. In fact, just last month, James saw his Rivals.com position ranking shoot up 20 spots, all the way up to No. 33 overall amongst running backs.

Wisconsin, Iowa and Pittsburgh are also hot on James’ trail, but I think the Spartans get the nod here when it is all said and done.

Wide Receiver: Jalen Brown

After four-star Drake Harris decommitted from MSU and choose to sign with Michigan instead, many figured that the Spartans were going to fall short when it came to signing a dominant wide receiver prospect in the 2014 class.

Not so fast.

Mark Dantonio and the MSU staff are hot on the trail of talented, four-star WR prospect Jalen Brown, and it looks like the feeling is mutual.

Brown is a mega-recruit and would be a huge score for the Spartans if they are able to land him. He is the No.4-ranked wide receiver prospect in the nation, according to rivals.com, and a top-50 prospect according the Rivals100 for the 2014 class.

The 6-foot-2, 183 pound stud has a long list of suitors, which includes the likes of Florida State, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon and UCLA, in addition to MSU.

Look for Brown to narrow his list down soon, and don’t be surprised if the Spartans make the cut of his top schools.

Tight End: Matt Sokol (Already signed)

MSU received a commitment from Sokol just this past month, and from the looks of it, the Spartans should have their tight end of the future in place.

Sokol plays quarterback at Rochester Adams High, but his 6-foot-5, 230 pound frame makes him an ideal target for the tight end position at the next level.

The three-star prospect has worked out at tight end in recent camps and has shown great hands and athleticism, which is much-needed after the departure of Dion Sims to the NFL.

It’s possible that MSU could sign a second tight end prospect in this class, but with Dylan Chmura in 2013 and Sokol in 2014, the future of the tight end position certainly looks bright in East Lansing.

Offensive Tackle: Jamarco Jones

If there is one prospect who could push this 2014 MSU recruiting class from good to great, I think it is high four-star offensive tackle, Jamarco Jones.

It is no secret that MSU has had injury problems on the offensive line over the past couple of seasons, and if Skyler Burkland does indeed call it quits on a career, that would just add to the list.

The 6-foot-5, 285 pound Jones is a force at the offensive tackle position. He is the No. 13-ranked offensive tackle prospect in the nation, according to rivals.com, and the No. 97 overall prospect in the 2014 class.

Jones has narrowed his list down to four finalists, which includes MSU, Michigan, Ohio State and Notre Dame.

After reading that list, it should come as no surprise that MSU has some steep competition for Jones’ talents, but from what we know at this point, all schools are fair game leading up to his visits this summer.

Landing Jones would be a huge score for Mark Dantonio and this MSU coaching staff.

Offensive Guard: Nick Richardson

Some have Nick Richardson listed as an offensive guard, others as an offensive tackle, but for logistic purposes, let’s go ahead and list him as a guard prospect here on this list.

Standing at 6-foot-4, 285 pounds, Richardson has the ideal size for a guard at the Big Ten level.

Rivals.com ranks Richardson as the No. 7 player in the state of Ohio and a member of the Rivals250 for the class of 2014.

Rumor has it that Richardson is high on MSU, but the Spartans will have to battle with the likes of Illinois, Ole Miss and West Virginia for the four-star prospect’s services. It is believed that if Richardson does indeed receive an offer from Ohio State, that the Buckeyes would be the likely favorite.

At this point, that Ohio State offer has not yet materialized, which puts MSU amongst the favorites for Richardson. Landing him would add to what is already an impressive offensive line class.

Center: Brian Allen (Already signed)

The Michigan State staff has made it a point to heavily recruit the state of Illinois in this 2014 class.

Mark Dantonio and his staff landed a gem this past April when three-star center Brian Allen committed to the Spartans, joining brother Jack, who is a starting guard for the Spartans.

According to rivals.com, Allen is the No. 2-ranked center prospect in the nation, as well as the No. 13 overall prospect in the state of Illinois.

He joins four-star DT Enoch Smith Jr. and three-star OT Chase Gianacakos as players from Illinois who have committed to the Spartans’ 2014 class thus far.

Several scouts have said that Brian is already more advanced than brother Jack was at this point in his high school career, which  is great news for the future of this Michigan State offensive line.

Look for Allen, Smith and Gianacakos to continue to help in the recruitment from the state of Illinois.

MSU Football: Spartans Need to Go All-In for Jones

Posted in MSU Football by Sean Merriman, BTN.com web editor on May 21, 2013

Anyone who followed Michigan State’s 2012 football season has a true understanding of just how important offensive line play was to this team.

The Spartans had injuries all across the offensive line last season. In fact, four of the team’s five starting offensive linemen missed at least one game last season due to injury.

With that said, adding depth to the offensive line has become a huge factor in the 2014 recruiting cycle.

Fortunately for the Spartans, some big help could soon be on the way.

Four-star offensive tackle Jamarco Jones of Chicago De La Salle has narrowed his final school choices down to four: Michigan State, Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State.

At an initial look, one would think that is some serious, steep competition for the Spartans.

But if you take a look at these programs’ records over the past three seasons, Mark Dantonio’s team is right there near the top. Ohio State has notched 30 wins over the past three seasons, followed by 29 for MSU, 28 for Notre Dame and 26 for Michigan.

The product that Michigan State has put out on the field under Dantonio has been phenomenal over the past couple of seasons. Perhaps even more impressive is that they have done it by developing middle-of-the-tier prospects, while the other three programs haul in top-ranked recruiting classes year-in and year-out.

But with both Michigan and Ohio State now back on the rise, MSU is in a situation where they need to capitalize on landing top-notch recruits when they show serious interest in the Spartans’ program.

This is where Jones comes into play.

The 6-foot-5, 285 offensive tackle is the No. 15-ranked tackle prospect in the nation, according to rivals.com. The popular recruiting site also lists Jones as the No. 97 player overall in the recently-updated 2014 Rivals100 list.

With Dan France, Blake Treadwell and Fou Fonoti all entering their senior seasons, and Skyler Burkland his junior campaign, adding a talent like Jones would be huge for the future of this offensive line unit.

In fact, the Spartans haven’t added an offensive lineman listed in the Rivals100 since David Barrent back in 2009. Barrent, who played his high school ball in Des Moines Iowa, had to give up the game of football just two years ago due to chronic lower-back pain.

Jones’ primary recruiter on the Spartans’ staff was former offensive coordinator Dan Roushar, who recently left to become the running backs coach for the New Orleans Saints. That assignment has now been passed on to MSU offensive line coach, Mark Staten.

Jones had the following to say when asked about Michigan State when interviewed by Tim Sulivan of TheWolverine.com.

“I’ve gotten to know their coaches pretty well,” Jones said. I’ve visited multiple times, going to games, practices and stuff like that. So, I’m pretty comfortable there, with Coach Staten as well.”

MSU Football: Spartans Add 2014 OLB Recruit Chris Frey

Posted in MSU Football by Sean Merriman, BTN.com web editor on May 15, 2013
Photo from studentsports.com

Photo from studentsports.com

Michigan State’s 2014 recruiting class is off to an exceptional start this season.

The Spartans just added another key piece to the class earlier this morning when they signed Upper Arlington, Ohio, outside linebacker Chris Frey.

The 6-foot, 208 pound Frey is a three-star prospect, according to rivals.com, which also ranks him as the No. 38 outside linebacker in the 2014 class. He dosen’t have exceptional size for the linebacker position, but he makes up for that with his physical play out on the field.

Frey, who just visited MSU on Monday, committed to the Spartans over offers from the likes of Boston College, Purdue, Syracuse, and several others. He is the eighth member of the Spartans 2013 class, which had the 23rd-ranked class in the nation before Frey’s commitment, according to rivals.com.

Frey attended the Cincinnati Rivals Camp Series this past year and was named as one of the top linebacker prospects from the group of events.

He is the fourth Spartan commit over the past month, joining OL Brian Allen (Hinsdale, Ill.), DT Enoch Smith Jr (Chicago, Il) and TE Matt Sokol (Rochester, MI).

Frey is just the second 2014 MSU commit to hail from Ohio, joining three-star quarterback prospect, Chris Durkin (Youngstown, OH).

MSU Basketball: Dawson’s Journey Could End in Triumph

Posted in MSU Basketball by Sean Merriman, BTN.com web editor on May 10, 2013
Photo from mlive.com

Photo from mlive.com

By: Sean Merriman

I was convinced he was going to be the next Jason Richardson. And oddly enough, as strange as this may sound to Spartan basketball fans, I still am convinced of that, it may just take a while longer for him to get there.

I remember watching Branden Dawson play in the McDonald’s All-American game on that Wednesday evening in late March. Driving, slashing, scoring, the 6-foot-6 kid from Gary, IN. could do it all.

Dawson scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds in limited time during that game. He glided to the rim, scoring almost at ease on the offensive end, while wrestling rebounds away from the likes of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Chane Behanan and James Michael MacAdoo on the defensive end.

“Now I get it,” I said to myself at the time.

Dawson looked like the perfect Tom Izzo recruit.

He would go on to enroll at MSU that summer and started the 2011-12 season off with a bang, averaging 11 points and five rebounds over his first three games in a Spartan uniform.

Those numbers stayed pretty consistent for the most part throughout the regular season. He posted three double-doubles in his freshman campaign, his last being against Purdue, a school that was in an ongoing, heated recruiting battle with Michigan State for Dawson’s services.

Then on a late Sunday afternoon, in the Spartans’ regular season finale against Ohio State, everything changed for Dawson in an instant.

Midway through the first half, Dawson went up for a rebound, his knee buckled and he fell to the ground in pain. It was later announced as a torn ACL, an injury that can often keep players out for up to 9-12 months. An injury, that can often alter a career.

However, Dawson made an astonishing recovery and was back on the court within five months of the injury, a feat that not even his fellow teammates could believe to be true.

Not only was Dawson expected to be ready in time for the Spartans 2012 opener, but he was looked at to be a focal point of a young, but talented Michigan State team.

Just like the previous year, Dawson started out his sophomore campaign on a high note. He scored in double-digits in six of his first seven games back from that unforeseen ACL tear, including a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double in the season opener against Connecticut.

The Spartans had their star forward back, and everything was all good in East Lansing for the time being.

Dawson continued to excel throughout the non-conference schedule and even into the Big Ten season, showing no ill effects of that surgically repaired knee. He put up career-highs in both points (18) and rebounds (13) against Wisconsin in a late-January game, and then topped it with a 20-point outburst two weeks later against Purdue.

However, after that, everything began to take a turn once again for Dawson.

The explosiveness that he showed early on in the season began to deteriorate each and every game after that. The ability to drive to the basket and create his own shot just simply wasn’t there anymore as the season wound down, and the pain began to take its tole.

After scoring in double-digits in 16 of the Spartans’ first 25 games last season, he failed to do so once throughout the team’s final 11 games of the season. He recorded eight-or-more rebounds in nine of the Spartans’ first 22 games of the year, and didn’t accomplish the feat again after the month of January.

Just as the Spartans’ season ended in disappointment after a Sweet 16 loss to Duke, so did Dawson’s season.

That brings us to where we are today, as Dawson faces the most important offseason of his young, basketball career.

If Dawson is able to gain back that explosiveness, develop his mid-range jump shot, and get that knee back to full strength, then this team will have a real shot at a national championship.

Along with point guard Keith Appling, shooting guard Gary Harris and power forward Adreian Payne, all of whom made the decision to come back for the 2012-13 season, as oppose to declaring early for the NBA Draft,  this group could very-well be the most talented core to play in East Lansing in over a decade.

But remember, there is a difference between being a talented college basketball team, and being a great college basketball team.

How far Michigan State will go next season could very-well be up to how hard Dawson dedicates himself this offseason.

It’s up to him- his decision.

A decision that could give him a chance to define his legacy at MSU. A decision that could give his team a chance to define their legacy as well.

MSU Basketball: Payne’s Return Makes Spartans a True Title Contender

Posted in MSU Basketball by Sean Merriman, BTN.com web editor on May 3, 2013
Photo from SBnation.com

Photo from SBnation.com

 By: Sean Merriman

When any talented underclassman chooses to forgo the NBA Draft and return to school, fans begin to look ahead and build expectations for the upcoming season.

With that said, let’s put Michigan State’s expectations for the 2013-14 season into proper perspective, now that Adreian Payne has announced he will be returning for his senior year.

They are huge.

ABSOLUTELY HUGE.

Most major publications have Michigan State listed as the Big Ten favorite and a consensus top-five team in the nation heading into next year.

Payne’s return gives the Spartans four returning starters and a bench that should stretch as deep as any in the nation.

But most important, Payne’s return gives this team another senior leader, along with Keith Appling. And if Michigan State fans know anything about leaders, they have been vitally important to this program’s success under head coach Tom Izzo.

Getting Payne back means  Izzo will have a real shot at a second national championship. It also means that Izzo can keep the streak alive of sending every four-year player to a Final Four.

Payne and Appling came in as freshmen back in 2010, one year removed from back-to-back Final Four appearances by the Spartans.  Both were ranked as consensus top-50 recruits in the nation, one a McDonald’s All-American, the other  the runner-up for Mr. Basketball in the state of Ohio, losing the honor to a guy by the name of Jared Sullinger. Both were expected to lead the Spartans back to another Final Four shortly after their arrival.

Appling worked his way into the rotation during his freshman year, serving as a defensive specialist, playing along side Kalin Lucas. He earned the starting point guard gig during his sophomore campaign and has spent the past two years learning to develop and make a proper transformation into that role.

This past year was Appling’s best, averaging a team-best 13.4 points per game, to go along with 3.3 assists per contest. He hit a shooting slump late in the regular season, but rebounded with a nice Big Ten and NCAA Tournament showing.

Much the same can be said of Payne. He looked like a future first-round draft pick out there at times for MSU this season, snatching down rebounds and extending his offensive game even beyond the 3-point stripe. Payne averaged career highs in points (10.5), rebounds (7.6) and blocks (1.3). He was a staple on Sportscenter Top-10 plays with his acrobatic dunks down in the paint.

The two friends, along with freshman Gary Harris, all could have made the choice to leave early and enter the NBA, Harris and Payne as likely first round selections, Appling a mid-to-late second round pick.

But all three chose to stay.

All three wanted to keep that streak alive of sending every four-year player under Izzo to a Final Four.

In sports, there is a strong difference between an assumption and a realistic expectation.

College basketball analysts across the country can assume that Michigan State is going to make a Final Four run in 2014.

But it’s up to the players themselves to turn that assumption into a reality.

With Payne, Harris and Appling in the mix, along with Izzo on the sidelines, you have to like their chances.

MSU Football: Maxwell’s Job to Lose, or Cook’s Job to Gain?

Posted in MSU Football by Sean Merriman, BTN.com web editor on April 24, 2013

connor-cook-spring-gamejpg-b9aef2a2b28ce4a8_crop_650x440

By: Sean Merriman

In this day and age, it is a natural perception for college football fans to blame the starting quarterback when things aren’t going as planned on the offensive side of the ball.

Michigan State senior quarterback Andrew Maxwell knows a thing or two about that.

After learning and patiently waiting behind former All-Big Ten and current Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins for three years, Maxwell got his turn to start at quarterback for the Spartans last season. Coming off back-to-back double-digit win seasons, expectations were sky high for the Spartans in 2012, and Maxwell was right in the center of it all.

But as many first-year starting quarterbacks often do, Maxwell struggled when he was handed the keys to car. The 6-foot-3, 215 pound signal caller from Midland, MI passed for 2,606 yards last season, but he threw just 13 touchdown passes and was picked off nine times.

While those numbers certainly aren’t anything to write home about, where Maxwell struggled the most was when plays broke down. His lack of mobility and pocket presence became more than evident last season by the 21 times he was sacked by opponents.

Maxwell and the Spartans finished 7-6 in 2012, which concluded with a 17-16 bowl win over TCU, in which Maxwell was benched in the final minutes of the game. Backup quarterback Connor Cook relived Maxwell and led the Spartans on a game-winning drive, capped off by a Dan Conroy 47-yard field goal.

That led to immediate questions about a quarterback controversy heading into the 2013 season, and now, four days removed from the conclusion of spring football, the quarterback race is still very much alive and ongoing.

Spartan fans have been quick to point out Maxwell’s lack of production last season, and the consensus among those fans is that they are calling for a change. However, head coach Mark Dantonio has made it clear that while this still remains an open quarterback competition, Maxwell does have the upper hand at this moment.

But as fans continue to question Maxwell’s ability and make a push for Cook to take over the starting quarterback spot, here is a question to ponder: If Maxwell struggled that much last season, why can’t Cook do enough to convince coaches that he is the right guy for the job?

It seems like the majority of Spartan critics have been focused on Maxwell’s lack of production and consistency, but coaches are obviously aware of that as well. While all of the blame has fallen on Maxwell, how about taking a look at the other side of things?

Why is it that Connor Cook can’t do enough to overtake Maxwell for the starting quarterback gig?

When asked about his ability to step up in game-like situations, Cook had the following to say to spartannation.com.

“I don’t want to call myself a gamer, and I don’t want to say that I’m inconsistent in practice or that I’m not good in practice, or anything like that. But, I think the main thing is that I just tend to lose focus in practice.

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“Anytime it is a game-like situation or under the lights, I feel a much different type of focus then I do in practice, and it’s not good… I shouldn’t feel like that.”

This is not as uncommon as it may sound, as several college and NFL quarterbacks have been known to perform better in game-like situations then they do in practice.

Look at Tim Tebow. It’s the same story there, although let’s not get going on that topic.

But if Connor Cook is going to win this quarterback competition and ultimately beat out Maxwell for the starting quarterback job, he is going to have to fix that. He is going to have to perform in practices and prove to the coaching staff that he is worthy of being the starting quarterback for this MSU football team.

While Maxwell’s team got the win in Saturday’s spring football scrimmage, Cook was the one who played better. His pocket presence and ability to move around when things break down is what makes him a promising option at the quarterback position.

The MSU coaching staff have made it clear that they want their quarterback to be more mobile and move around more in the pocket. In other words, Cook has the ability to give the staff what they want, it’s the other intangibles that he needs to work on now.

Remember this– Sports fans love the unknown, and outside of Cook’s limited action in last year’s Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Cook is pretty much just that– an unknown commodity. But if he wants to win this starting quarterback  job, it has to start on the practice field, and then transition to the playing field on Saturdays.

This quarterback race will likely continue throughout the summer and into the fall.

But if it’s Andrew Maxwell under center when the Spartans open up at home on Aug. 30 against Western Michigan, let’s refrain from asking what he did to deserve this job. It may be more fair to ask what Connor Cook wasn’t able to do?

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