Today Rittenberg posted his MSU hope/concern video, taking alook at the reasons why the Spartans should have – wait for it – hope and concern for the 2010 season.
Basically, Rittenberg says the overall depth at the offensive skill positions puts MSU among the top teams in the conference when it comes to explosive offensive firepower. Obviously the tight end and wide receiver positions are stacked, with the Sims/Linthicum/Gantt trifecta at tight end and Dell/Cunningham/Martin/Nichol at wide receiver. Cousins has an added year of experience as a starter under his belt now, which hopefully equates to fewer turnovers at inoportune times in the game. However, we don’t have the depth now at the QB position that we had last year, since Nichol has moved over to the WR position. Andrew Maxwell has the potential, but if Cousins goes down it means everything is going to be led by a redshirt freshman, which is at least midly concerning to me. Baker and Caper will split duties at the running back position, with Leveon Bell a third option if needed. Still, Bell is a freshman, and if we see injuries to Baker and/or Caper, we could be looking at a disappearing running game.
As for concerns, Rittenberg departs from the party line criticizm of “the defensive secondary is a seive” to bring some attention to the outside positions of the offensive and defensive lines. While I don’t see the secondary being stellar this season, I think we will definitely see an improvement over the conference’s worst passing defense (giving up almost 270 yards per game through the air). I mean, it can’t get worse than that, right? Not helping things last season was that there was almost no push from the front four, so opposing QBs had plenty of time to watch plays develop and pick apart the defense. Unless you can get pressure, someone is going to get open eventually – and unfortunately that happened a lot last year.
There’s been talk that for the 2010 season we’ll see more of a 3-4 defensive package, which will take advantage of our ungodly depth at linebacker. So while I feel like this probably weakens us a bit at stopping the run (MSU was 4th in the conference in run defense last season), it should open up vast opportunities to blitz the quarterback while still having three speedy linebackers in pass coverage.
On the offensive line, senior D.J. Young moves from right tackle to protect Cousins on the left side of the line, while junior Jared McGaha will fill in at the right tackle position. Honestly, I think the left-to-center side of the line with Young/Foreman/Stipek is actually pretty solid, but the right side with sophomore Chris McDonald and McGaha could be shaky.
Can someone tell me why this seems to be an issue every season? In the last 10 years, I don’t remember a single season where the consensus going into the season was that either line, offensive or defensive, was going to be great. Who’s doing our recruiting, Matt Millen? Just seems to me that when you have very good meat-and-potatoes guys, then your average skill players at least get a chance to step up and shine. But when you don’t have really solid play in the trenches, it just seems that no matter how good the skill guys are, they’re constantly getting frustrated by the opposing defense.