MSU Football: Projecting the Spartans’ 2013 Starting Offense
With the early departure of Le’Veon Bell and Dion Sims to the NFL, in addition to an expected offseason quarterback competition, Michigan State’s offense should have a different look heading into the 2013 college football season.
In addition to Bell and Sims, the Spartans must also replace starting right guard Chris McDonald, a three-year starter who has been a staple on this offensive line, as well as backup running back Larry Caper.
First-year starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell was inconsistent this season, and with the emergence of redshirt freshman Connor Cook in this year’s Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, it should make for an open competition at quarterback heading into the spring.
So how will this all shape out?
Let’s go ahead and project the Spartans 2013 starting offense.
Quarterback: Andrew Maxwell
While this may not be a popular choice with the fans, in all honesty, I think it is a near lock that Maxwell is under center for the Spartans when they take on Western Michigan in the season opener.
This isn’t to say that the coaching staff won’t open this up for competition because I believe they will, but Maxwell will be a senior and has far more game experience than any other option on the Spartans’ roster.
Look for Cook, as well as redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor and true freshman Damion Terry to push Maxwell for this job right up until the opening game, but in the end, Dantonio and the coaching staff will side with the senior signal caller.
Running Back: Gerald Holmes
This may come as a shock to some people, seeing as this kid wasn’t necessarily a highly regarded recruit.
But with Le’Veon Bell off to the NFL, this job is truly as open as a competition can possibly get, and ultimately, I believe the coaches will go with the back they feel gives them the best chance of winning football games, regardless of experience and seniority.
Holmes is built very similar to Bell, standing at 6-foot and weighing just under 210 pounds. He is a bruising back who can run over defenders, but also features good speed and blocking ability, which is important to coaches.
Nick Hill is the back with the most experience on the team, totaling 21 carries for 48 yards this past season. But Hills’ role seems best defined as a change-of-pace back who can continue to contribute in the return game.
The other candidates to replace Bell include Jeremy Langford (junior), Nick Tompkins (redshirt freshman) and R.J. Shelton (freshman).
Of that group, don’t be surprised to see Tompkins emerge as the change-of-pace back used to compliment Holmes. He has elite speed, but was slowed down for much of this season by ongoing injuries.
Wide Receiver 1: Aaron Burbridge
After looking like a potential redshirt candidate early on this past season, Burbridge came on strong in the second half of the season, highlighted by a eight-catch, 134-yard outing against Indiana in Week 6 of the 2012 season.
The talented sophomore-to-be totaled 29 catches for 364 yards and two touchdowns in his freshman campaign.
More importantly, he established himself as the team’s top downfield threat and should continue to only get better this offseason.
It was rumored that Burbirdge was overwhelmed at times this year with the offensive playbook, but that shouldn’t be an issue with his first full offseason ahead.
Wide Receiver 2: Bennie Fowler
Fowler was one of several Spartan receivers to struggle with dropping passes early on this season, but he drastically improved as the 2012 season progressed.
The senior-to-be ranked second on the team with 41 catches this year and led the Spartans with 524 receiving yards and four touchdown grabs.
If Fowler is able to put together a consistent season in 2013, he could form a dangerous one-two receiving punch with Burbridge.
Wide Receiver 3: Keith Mumphery
Mumphery, like Fowler, was a victim of several dropped passes early on in the 2012 season. However, the talented junior-to-be ended up leading the team in receptions with 42.
Mumphery had four games where he caught five-or-more passes for the Spartans, all of which came against quality opponents (Notre Dame, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Northwestern).
This is a kid who has both good height and speed, and if he can become more consistent and cut down on the drops, he could be a big-time playmaker for this Spartan offense in 2013.
Tight End: Paul Lang
Projecting the starter at running back for next season was challenging. Figuring out a potential starter at tight end could be even more difficult.
Dion Sims recorded 36 catches for 475 yards this past season for the Spartans. The next tight end with the most catches on the roster after Sims was freshman Paul Lang, who hauled in three catches for eight yards.
As of now, there could be up to six players competing for this staring spot. Lang should be the early favorite, but Andrew Gleichert (junior), Josiah Price (redshirt freshman) and Evan Jones (redshirt freshman) should all compete as well.
Also, one key storyline to keep an eye on will be the development of Juwan Caesar, a former wide receiver who made the move to tight end during the Spartans’ practices leading up to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Caesar could be used in passing situations, while a guy like Lang or Jones is used primarily in run and pass protection.
Finally, there is Jamare Mills, a junior college transfer who was expected to play this past season, but had academic issues. Will he be on the Spartans’ roster in 2013 and be included in the tight end competition as well?
We shall wait and see.
Right Tackle: Fou Fonoti
Fonoti started the season at tight tackle for Michigan State before being lost to a season-ending injury early on in the year.
The senior-to-be is expected to be back at full health next season and should maintain his starting right tackle position if he is indeed back at full strength. The spot was occupied by Skyler Burkland this year, but Burkland struggled at times in pass protection, coming off an injury filled season himself.
This could be an ongoing competition in the spring, but when it is all said and done, look for Fonoti to reclaim his starting spot on what should be a talented offensive line in 2013.
Right Guard: Jack Allen
Allen is a guy who has moved all around this Michigan State offensive line in 2012.
He began the year at guard, but took over at center for the remainder of the season after starter Travis Jackson was lost to a season-ending injury.
Now, with Jackson expected to be back and healthy in 2013, Allen will likely move to one of the starting guard spots, most likely on the right side of the line.
Center: Travis Jackson
Jackson enjoyed a standout freshman season and was expected to do big things in 2012, but he suffered a broken right fibula in the Spartans’ 17-16 loss to Ohio State early on in the season and was forced to miss the entire season.
Assuming he is able to come back fully healthy, look for Jackson to re-take his starting center position and provide plenty of experience and skill on this MSU offensive line.
Left Guard: Blake Treadwell
Treadwell is another guy who has moved around on this offensive line over the years, but he should settle in as one of the starting guards for the Spartans in 2013.
The former East Lansing High School standout began his Spartan playing career on the defensive side of the ball, but appears to have settled down on the offensive line. He will add experience to what should be a talented unit in the upcoming season.
Left Tackle: Dan France
One of the main staples on this MSU offensive line, France will be the Spartans’ starting left tackle heading into next season.
Like Treadwell, France also started his MSU playing career on the defensive side of the ball before moving to the offensive line in 2011 and settling in there nicely.
Don’t be surprised to see this 6-foot-6, 315 pound senior-to-be listed on numerous preseason All-Big Ten teams heading into the 2013 college football season.