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Sunday, August 25, 2013


With the off-season and preseason camp behind us, the 2013 Spartan season sits squarely in our sites. As we approach the first game set for this Friday, we will begin a series sharing the perspectives of Spartan Resource contributors on a variety of MSU football topics.

Today's Question/Topic:
The football program experienced several changes in the off season, including staffing, practice designs, and additional funding.
  • What change will have the greatest positive impact on the 2013 football team? (Explain)
  • Discuss long range effects of these changes.
  • Give an overall assessment to the off season for the Spartans program.

The biggest immediate impact will be the coaching change. Bollman on the staff means we have a guy with proven track record of getting teams prepared for games. At the same time, Warner's ability to call a game and make adjustments (good or bad) is also going to have big impact on this season.

The other two will have longer term impacts on the program. Getting guys live will get the younger players more acclimated to the speed of the game. But the increase to the budget will have an even bigger longterm impact. We have seen that with the hiring of Curtis Blackwell and his impact on the 2015 class already. Add in improvements to the facilities (like the diet and nutrition improvements we have already heard about). Those are steps that will only improve the program beyond what Coach D is already doing for us.

IMO its tough at this point to judge the off season because we haven't seen the results. In theory I love everything. I like the two coordinators because they both compliment each other. Not to mention you bring in Bollman who will only add to the offensive line and his NFL experience is great too.

My favorite move was the addition of Burton. He seems to have the same attitude of Coach Narduzzi. And the defensive line has been good over the past few years but has been a little disappointing. When you hear Worthy talking about taking plays off and ARW and Gholston fizzle last year, something had to change. Burton brings that change I think. In addition he has jumped head first into impacting recruiting too.

With anything it is easy to become complacent when you have some success. You do things the same way expecting similar results and they eventually don't come. The offseason moves with coaches, personnel and going live so much have all been to take a step forward from where we were at in 2011. So if this was a midterm I would give the program an A grade but the final (the actual season) will determine if we pass or fail.

To put things in perspective, the "blame" for 2012 lies squarely on Coach Dantonio and his staff. While the team had good depth at all positions, it lacked good experience at several key positions, especially skill positions on offense. The coaching staff did not prepare many of the players who started in the 2012 by giving them quality live game experience in 2011.

Andrew Maxwell entered the 2012 campaign with 171 total passing yards in 2011 against the weakest opponents on the schedule (Youngstown State, Florida Atlantic, Central Michigan, and Indiana). Add to it, he was throwing to a wide receiver corps that was just as inexperienced. The group had 20 catches for 202 yards, including Dion Sims (TE). The most experienced player catching the ball in 2011 was Le'Veon Bell (RB) with 35 catches for 267 yards.

Practices, scrimmages, the scout team are good, but not good enough. The lack of live game experience was the singular cause of a dysfunctional offense in 2012. They improved as the season progressed, but it did not show because the quality of the opposition also increased.

Historically, Michigan State football has been very unsuccessful transitioning new quarterbacks. Of the last 20 first start quarterbacks, only 7 have had win-loss records better than the prior season and only 4 have had winning seasons their first season. Coach Dantonio and his staff have recognized this deficiency in long term thinking and they and the players have put into practice 2 significant changes.

They are conducting live contact practices and scrimmages. The QBs and WRs know they will be hit. While it is not quite the same as live game, it is a big improvement over flag football.

The coaches have put all candidates in competition for all positions. Even the freshmen are getting hit or are getting in their hits. While starters have always had to "earn" their starts, this is the first time freshmen have been given a level playing field to challenge the incumbents. This change has been an eye opener for most everyone.

This prior off-season has seen fundamental changes in the way Coach Dantonio and his staff approach coaching. The changes are good and needed but not surprising. The MSU coaches are constantly looking for ways to improve the program and the quality of the teams they field. With these changes, they have "raised the bar" for the entire program. Going forward, Spartan teams will be better prepared, tougher, and more successful as a result. From the progress we have seen so far, these changes are going to have tremendous benefits in 2013 and beyond and Spartan fans can be confident of success in the future.

The key to the success of all these changes will be the ability of Coach Dantonio and his staff to learn from their mistakes and improve in the future.

Dantonio was not a "high-profile" hire for MSU, and many were surprised to see him get the job. He has done very well, and this is not an attempt to criticize his work. But any football coach will tell you they expect players to learn from their mistakes and improve their performance, and the same expectation applies to the administrators of the football program.

Good to see that Dantonio now recognizes that he short-changed Maxwell as a sophomore as he was a little too fixated on Cousins in his senior year. Looks like that mistake will not be repeated.

Good to see that the coaches realize they can't totally protect college football players from game-speed practice contact until the week before the first game. They seem to have gotten away with "going live" this off-season, but the luck won't last indefinitely. There will be an injury or two in the future using this approach, but it's essential for game preparation to practice hard.

Good to see that an assistant coach was let go after an abysmal performance that contributed to a poor season last year. Dantonio has been very loyal to his staff, but there comes a time to make a change. Can't say for certain it was Dantonio's call to make the change, but some change is needed to make progress.

Good to see that the University stepped up to equalize funding for the MSU Football Program by comparison to other top-notch programs. The new staff position combined with the continued facility upgrades should only help the program sustain success over time.

Overall, it's been a good off-season based on the lack of injuries and the remarkable depth we can see at  Quarterback and Running Back. If the coaching staff continues to recognize their own failures and strive to make improvements, this ship will be sailing forward for years to come.

The Contributors:

ATownAndDown is a consistent and reliable comment submitter on M-Live. Readers frequently seek his viewpoint and the journalists there often interact directly with him on the site. After reading his comments for months, began to post some of his content from M-Live and now links directly to his comments in the resource center at the bottom of the page. It turns out SpartanMan82 had been "following" him on M-Live for over a year prior. A-Town's first post, Recruiting is Not an Excuse for Michigan to be "Back", is number 8 on the top 10 most read list in the right column of the web version of this blog. You can also follow ATownAndDown on M-Live here.

MSUSpartan76 is also an active poster on M-Live. We discovered S76 while tracking A-Town. We liked his intellect and we hit a bulls-eye on this one. His first post, The Myth of the Widening Recruiting Gap, Part 1, is already number 3 on all-time most read list and it is jam packed with recruiting statistics that clearly show that the "recruiting gap" between Ann Arbor College and MSU continues to shrink, even as our rivals pound their chests about winning recruiting championships. You can follow MSUSpartan76 on M-Live here.

SpartanMan82 is the featured author on this site. His style, humor and skillful writing is truly unique and is fortunate to benefit from his contribution. In reality, he inspired the creation of the site without lifting a finger to get it done. We disliked the vulgar t-shirts worn by some MSU fans/students and even got tired the use of "scUM" when on-line Spartans referred to Michigan or it's fans. We thought there had to be a less scUMmy way to have fun with Michigan fans. SpartanMan82 coined the phrase DUMP the chUMps. Return2glory then turned it into a website. SM82 authored Why We Call Them chUMps and Not All Michigan Fans are chUMps. He holds the #2, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10 positions in the all-time most read list and posted several multi-part in depth series. We will be creating a "Best of SpartanMan82" page as much of his best work is not on the top 10-list. You can see all of his work here.

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1 comment:

  1. For what it is worth, Coach Dantonio also short changed Kirk Cousins, the 2012 receivers, the 2013 TE and RBs.

    It is very good he recognizes that transitions just do not happen, but rather they have to be planned and started a year in advance. Giving the next year's starters a good amount of live game experience in the current season is the only way to smooth over the speed bumps.

    Just look at Brian Hoyer to see what could have and probably should have been done.


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