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Monday, December 16, 2013

MSU FOOTBALL FRONT-BURNER: 2013 REWIND Featuring ATownAndDown

BIG TEN CHAMPIONS EDITION
Our weekly feature on MSU Football brings diverse responses to
a variety of questions related to the Spartans program. 

Front-Burner will be published in three parts between the B1G Championship and the Rose Bowl

Part 1. B1G Championship Game Discussion
Part 2. MSU 2013 Season Discussion
           2A. ATownAndDown Feature (This Edition)
           2B. MSUSpartan76 Feature
           Part 3. Rose Bowl and Beyond Discussion

Panelists:
ATownAndDown (Follow A-Town on M-Live)
MSUSpartan76 (Follow '76 on M-Live)

Part 2 Discussion Questions (Readers COMMENT below the post.)

1. Looking back at the season, what are your favorite two or three specific moments/visions - not stats or general outcomes/results, but specific events captured on TV, seen in person, read about or heard on the radio?

2. What are some of the most impressive observations/aspects of this team, staff, players, program, etc. that you feel may have gone a bit under reported?

3. Mark Dantonio selected a few true-freshmen to play this season, while still red-shirting most of their classmates. How do you feel about the decisions to activate Shelton, Williams, and Geiger?

4. How many of the fans who wanted Damion Terry to "burn the redshirt" still think that would have been the right thing to do? What does that tell us for the future about fan reactions and early-season perceptions?

5. As for the QB competition, Datonio was accused of was "creating a circus". Was Dantonio being indecisive or was he merely being patient while gathering information, adjusting and verifying? A little of both? What was your take on the situation then vs. now?

6. Michigan State has 18 seniors and will suffer significant losses on defense, including punter Mike Sadler [Well - it only seems like Sadler is a senior as he is working on his PhD as a reader pointed out in comments.] Although the Spartans do return good players on defense, I think most analysts will assume a significant drop off in defensive production. Whatever that drop off might be, if there is one, discuss your thoughts on how the experienced offense might help out the defense in 2014. Will it? Can it? Will it be needed?


Responses from ATownAndDown

1. Looking back at the season, what are your favorite two or three specific moments/visions - not stats or general outcomes/results, but specific events captured on TV, seen in person, read about or heard on the radio?

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a U of M basher, but Devin Gardner basically being carried off the field on that last drive was awesome. That was a game going into that everyone was asking who MSU had faced and was really questioning if the defense was that good or not. That image said everything that needed to be said: MSU was for real.

The other specific image that still gets me was Langford's last TD in the B1G Championship Game. And not so much the TD run but the smiles. Langford pulls his mouth piece at the end to reveal a huge grin. Also they showed Coach D's reaction as the play progressed and even he flashed a rare appearance of his pearly whites. This program has grown a lot and come so far since Coach D arrived. Those smiles showed the joy of achieving the goal he set day one on the job.


2. What are some of the most impressive observations/aspects of this team, staff, players, program, etc. that you feel may have gone a bit under reported?

I would say the resiliency of this group is something that gets lost in all the hoopla. Some point to it and say what a great turnaround story but its not a turnaround story. Everyone has stuck to the plan and saw it through to this point. After 2011, we lost Cousins, Cunningham, Martin, Baker, Linthicum, Celek, and Foreman. In 2012, the offense was a mess and the defense, despite being one of the best in the nation, could do very little to get wins because of that. To make things worse, Sims and Bell left early. It would have been so easy for defensive guys to get selfish. It could have been easy for offensive guys to check out. Coaches could have easily lost the locker room. Even after the rough start it could have been issues because guys started to say "Here we go again." But that didn't happen. The team not only stayed close like a tight knit family but they remained vigilant to Coach D's plan. In the end, it was that resiliency that brought this team here.


3. Mark Dantonio selected a few true-freshmen to play this season, while still red-shirting most of their classmates. How do you feel about the decisions to activate Shelton, Williams, and Geiger?

Coach D made the right decisions with the personnel. The team is past those early stages of trying to build some depth and is to the point that you have to win. The true freshman that played really filled holes that this team had. Shelton has great speed and big play ability. Geiger's kicking lead the B1G in FG% (much better than Muma who was 4 for 6 when Geiger took over). And Williams was a guy that balanced out the running attack (especially before Langford really got his legs underneath him). I would have liked to have seen Williams' and Shelton's roles expanded as the season progressed. There was a bye week after U of M so that might have been an opportunity to get them in some planned sets but I am sure there was a reason for that. In the end, those guys filled needs on the team and the team had everything it needed.


4. How many of the fans who wanted Damion Terry to "burn the redshirt" still think that would have been the right thing to do? What does that tell us for the future about fan reactions and early-season perceptions?

To start with, who knows if the decision to pull the redshirt or not would have been the right one or wrong one. Remember that was supposed to happen going into the YSU game. If Terry was able to do things that Cook couldn't do, could that have meant a win against ND that following week? We have seen back-to-back years where redshirt freshman quarterbacks have been the best players in college football. Its hard to believe they wouldn't have been better than average with some fantastic sprinkled in as true freshmen. Was Terry there or not? Only time will tell. In the end, things worked out very well for the program so the decision appears to be a good one. I don't think you will ever break fans habits of overreacting. Its what we do. In fact there are expressions like "The backup QB is the most popular guy on the team" because of fans quick reactions. There is a reason why coaches coach and fans don't. But then again, there are a lot of coaches that make some knuckleheaded decisions too.


5. As for the QB competition, Dantonio was accused of was "creating a circus". Was Dantonio being indecisive or was he merely being patient while gathering information, adjusting and verifying? A little of both? What was your take on the situation then vs. now?

I think Coach D was a little of both. He knew the potential for an awesome season based on the parts he knew he had and the schedule we had in front of us. So he had to make the right decision so he wanted to gather as much information as he could before making that decision. I think he was a little indecisive because he ended up going with Cook despite the fact that everything we heard coming out of camp and saw from the games would suggest that Cook was the wrong choice. Clearly there was something else that Coach D was getting that no one else was so I don't know why it took so long to just pull that trigger. Maybe he needed to see something like he did in the YSU game before pushing all his chips in.

As far as moving forward, I think Cook had better keep his nose to the grindstone with improving his game. Its one thing to win a QB competition when your toughest competition is Maxwell and you are leading a team that has the make up like this one does. But next year you are going to have Terry much more up to speed on the game and the system. That is going to translate to more consistency which seems to be the biggest thing in Coach D not pulling the redshirt this fall. I think the job is Cook's but that doesn't guarantee him anything. If Terry moves into that #2 area on the depth chart going into Spring and has a strong Spring and Fall camp, you will likely see him getting some game reps next year (inline with Coach D's desire to get reps to his #2). But if Cook rests on his laurels and thinks he is good enough, Terry might open the door to create a real competition. The other thing to think about for next year, the defense likely won't be creating as many favorable situations for the offense. Meaning, who ever is QB is going to have to make more plays than we made this year. I don't know if Cook can play at this same level and make those plays. That added pressure for the offense to advance its game might mean pressure on Cook. Can he step up to that plate without raising his own bar?

6. Michigan State has 18 seniors and will suffer significant losses on defense, including punter Mike Sadler [Well - it only seems like Sadler is a senior as he is working on his PhD as a reader pointed out in comments.]. Although the Spartans do return good players on defense, I think most analysts will assume a significant drop off in defensive production. Whatever that drop off might be, if there is one, discuss your thoughts on how the experienced offense might help out the defense in 2014. Will it? Can it? Will it be needed?

The defense will regress however slightly. I think a few will overreact and assume the bottom is dropping out but that is far from the case. MSU's defense will still be a really solid unit but to expect some of the video game like numbers from this year is a stretch. You still return Calhoun and Rush. In addition, Knox and Scarpinato stepped up and hopefully LT and Kittredge can get back healthy and have the impacts we know they can. Taiwan Jones returns and Davis has quietly turned into Denicos Allen 2.0 (but bigger). Harris is a solid player and Riley Bullough should go back to that side of the ball (I have heard rumors that he is already working over there anyway). And don't sleep on the young LB's too. Finally the secondary might not be the No Fly Zone but Waynes, Drummond, Williamson and Cox are all playmakers back there (and don't be surprised to see one of the latter two find their way to that cover OLB spot). Also, Darien Hicks was a true freshman that played in every game this season and Robinson and Edmondson have been CBs that the coaches have been high on too. There is more than enough depth and talent on that defense to be very competitive. I know you can't replace guys like Bullough and Dennard but the guys coming in are not half bad.

I also think the offense should take a step forward. QB should improve. WR's finally appear to be getting it. You have a 1400 yard 17 TD rusher returning and he will only add more depth behind him. The Oline is strong and TE looks to be coming together too. Its tough to say how much better the offense will be. In the end the big numbers will will likely be similar (yards per game, points per game, etc.) but the way they do it will be different and the more overlooked efficiency stats will likely be better. Also, it will be against a tougher schedule too with Oregon, Nebraska, U of M, OSU, and PSU. I am hoping we can see some steps forward before the bowl game too.

~ATownAndDown (Follow A-Town on M-Live)

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11 comments:

  1. Well said, Atown. You've made some good points regarding each question, whether we agree or not. I hope the 2013 success continues over into the 2014 season.

    ST3000
    Go Green!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Come ST. Disagree with me! I like hearing counter-points.

      Delete
  2. "...losses on defense, including punter Mike Sadler"

    Isn't Sadler just a junior?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Adam. Wow! That's a whole new reality. I check the depth chart all the time and just always assumed that the dude working on his PhD is in his senior year of eligibility. According to the MSU athletic website, you are correct. Mike Sadler P 6-0 192 JR Grand Rapids, Mich. - Forest Hills Northern. OK, now I need to know the story behind this. Do you know?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't catch that in the question but yes he will be back next year. Sadler is a real genuine genius. He came into MSU with like 50 credits (that is nearly 2 years worth). I know he started work on his PhD this summer but the MSU (academic) staff said he is applying to be a Rhodes Scholar in 2015.

      Delete
    2. There was a actually a tweet from Sadler on senior day about how everyone thought he was graduating. It was something like "Thanks guys, but I'm only a junior."

      Delete
  4. How do I get ahold of you guys? I have some nice photos to get to you?

    Dream Green

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HEY DREAM GREEN: You're the guy WE were trying to get a hold of. RTG will set up a communication with you.

      Your work ripping the xyz out of the chUMps has been noted. Very factual, that's our style!

      Delete
  5. Send the info to:

    BEATchUMps@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Will do. They are CLASSIC!

      Delete
  6. Dream - send me an email to BEATchUMps@gmail.com so we can get this off line. Several people receive these comments in the email box.

    ReplyDelete

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