Green Lenses Takes a Look at Several MSU Topics

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SPARTANS AND BULLDOGS: Georgia is up next for the Spartans and MSU is going to have to finally put it together in a big game to win. MSU has done many things well this year. They finally have won the close games, and now in just the second year of this program, they are headed to a New Year’s Bowl game. The part that MSU has to improve on is showing up in big games. After keeping all games with in a touchdown last year, this year they were badly blown out against Ohio State and Penn State. This is a trend that is not acceptable if MSU is going to turn the program around once and for all. More impact recruits tune in to watch those games than any other and in those two games there was nothing to get excited about. It was especially disappointing in that MSU was playing for a at least a share of the championship, and yet, you couldn’t tell that from watching the game.

In the nine games they were expected to win, they did. In two of the three games where they were going to challenged, they caved. I don’t think they have to beat Georgia, but at least show up and play with pride. Maybe pretend you are playing Michigan, afterall, Georgia is already talking smack, saying they already beat the best team in the State earlier in the year in CMU. That should motivate somebody in green and white.

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Since Dantonio is in year two, it is only fair he gets time to show he can win the big games and hopefully his big game prep will evolve over time. I do understand the Brian Kelly argument. Sure, Kelly has won his championships, MAC and Big East titles, their bowl games and whatever else. I do understand he is a big game coach and deserves the accolades he is getting. I also understand Dantonio struggled in big games at Cincy as well,

getting blown out in many games against Rutgers, West Virginia, Pitt, etc. Yet, it is only fair to give him some time to show he can play in these types of games. He is getting a chance to show he can compete in a big game again, let’s see what he can do. I personally am very happy to see the kind of character and leadership he has brought to MSU at the very least, and nobody can deny the progress he has made in the program.

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Speaking of Georgia, they were favored to win a National Championship until people got hurt, suspended, and people took a closer look at their imposing schedule. Georgia has an impressive array of talent that most of you have already heard about. QB Matthew Stafford, RB Knowshon Moreno, and wide outs Mohamed Massaquoi and AJ Green are among the best in the nation. The defense is experienced and fast. Yet, I don’t buy the SEC is faster deal either and that is an advantage. There are fast teams in the Big Ten in Illinois, Ohio State and Penn State. MSU has some speed as well. Plus the Big Ten is 4-4 in the last eight bowl games against the SEC, and have done well in the Capitol One Bowl recently.

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Stopping Georgia begins with stopping the run and making them one dimensional. Then at that point, MSU will have to cover the big guns and put a rush on Stafford. In 2007, Georgia lost their only two games by mustering their lowest rushing outputs of the season with 128 and 69 yards against South Carolina and Tennessee respectively. This year, the Gamecocks nearly upset them again but couldn’t muster more than 18-yards on the ground, but they did hold Georgia in the game to 106-yards rushing, thus keeping them in the game. Auburn also kept themselves in the game by neutralizing the Bulldog running attack and holding them to 136-yards on the ground, but lost as well. Georgia’s three losses came to Florida (which held the to 106-yards rushing), Alabama, which held them to 50-yards rushing, and Georgia Tech, which used the Triple Option running attack to gain 409-yards against Georgia to survive the Bulldogs vaunted attack. However, it won’t be as easy as stopping the run, the Bulldogs nearly came back against the Crimson tide by throwing the ball around the yard and they have some impact receivers in Massaquoi and Green.

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RECRUITING: The Spartans continue to impress by adding another four-star player in LB Jeremy Gainer, a 6’1” 215 stud who chose MSU over Minnesota. He has big play ability, coming up with eight interceptions and forcing seven fumbles as a junior. A couple big needs that still need to be filled in my opinion are some more impact defensive linemen (although Corey Freeman will help) and an explosive wide receiver. Although Brandon Long and a few others stepped up to offset the loss of Ervin Baldwin and Jonal St Dic, there doesn’t appear to be any real difference makers on the defensive front waiting in the wings.

The defensive line weaknesses were especially noticeable against PSU and OSU, and MSU will need help there. Tyler Hoover shows some promise but MSU will need more. The reason why teams continue to show up nationally in the Top Ten year after year is not because of the flashy skill players they recruit (although that is certainly a factor), but because they get solid linemen on both sides of the ball. Those are undenied facts that any college coach worth his salt will attest to. Likewise, while there are some good possession receivers in the program and verbaled to MSU, yet there isn’t anybody like Devin Thomas around either. In fact, had Blair White not come up big time, MSU could have been in trouble. Mark Dell and BJ Cunningham are possession receivers at this point and MSU needs more. Keyshawn Martin has some explosiveness, but does he have the durability and toughness of a Thomas? MSU could use a highly-touted physical and explosive receiver in this group.

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Another point of recruiting is that Dantonio doesn’t like to dip into the Junior College ranks, but it certainly helped his predecessor in filling holes, and MSU has some holes. It

also boggles the mind that Dantonio hasn’t been able to dip into the Florida ranks a little more as difference makers like Lorenzo White, Sedric Irvin, Gari Scott, Amp Campbell, and others from the Sunshine state have made a previous impact for the green and white. Even Ohio State, with the fertile rich recruiting back drop of Ohio, recruits nation wide. As far as the JC ranks, they have been good to MSU with players like Devin Thomas, Ervin Baldwin, Nehemiah Warwick, Ogembi Nwagbuo, Jonal St Dic, David Stanton, Kenny Shane, and Domata Peko making huge impacts. You don’t want to build your program around junior college players, but to fill holes with impact players makes a lot of sense. Even USC recruits these guys.

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MSU HOOPS: Let me say first I love Tom Izzo, he is best ambassador that MSU has ever had. The reason I start with this lavish praise is because I have also learned that anything viewed as less than totally conformity to what he is doing as sacrilegious. The truth is, MSU basketball is changed and has lost its luster. The good news is that things can change. The better news is that MSU is loaded with talent.

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So what is wrong? Well, I was watching the Championship game from 2000 and realized that the style of play is different as well. Gone are the days that MSU locked-down on defense to the point that you couldn’t even get a 3-point shot off, to the point now where not only can opponents get shots off, but in fact are WIDE OPEN to do so and hit them regularly. Do you remember ‘Four To The Boards’? That is gone as well, as guys struggle to box out underneath on the defensive end, and the offensive tips are no longer plentiful. Of course his recruiting changed in that gone were athletic types like Jason Richardson, Mo Pete, Andre Hutson, and even AJ Granger, who could take you off the dribble. These guys were replaced by plodders like Drew Naymick, Delco Rowley, Tom Herzog and Idong Ibok. Also, Izzo fretted about losing guys that could leave for the NBA early and wanted to recruit players he could develop over four years. That has failed miserably because you either have talent or you don’t. So give credit to Izzo with finally going back after some athletic big men in Raymar Morgan, Delvin Roe, and Draymond Green.

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Another huge problem is the sloppy ball-ballhandling and lack of leadership. Look, guys like Magic Johnson and Mateen Cleaves do not grow on trees. Those guys were strong on and off the court leaders. Those players who played with them always come around and say the same thing, in that both refused to let their teams lose. They played with pride on both ends of the court. Both those championships teams played defense, made the hustle plays, and refused to lose. The current team is sloppy with the ball and the defense at times is an afterthought at best.

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The Spartans in recent years have also lost some solid assistant coaches in Stan Heath, Brian Gregory, and Tom Crean among others who perhaps emphasized defense and fundamentals more than other coaches.

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Look, let me be clear here as well. It’s not like MSU has dropped off the basketball ledge

as they seem to always get their 20+ victories and NCAA appearances, and yet, it has been a long time since one could say that the Spartans could legitimately challenged for a National Championship. In fact, a fact, it has felt the Spartans overachieved to make a deep run in the tournament. In fact, despite the Big Ten being down the last several years, MSU has found a way to not win any Big Ten Championships or Big Ten Tournaments in almost eight years.

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Well, no more excuses people. The 2000 team was plagued by injuries and things going wrong, and still gutted out a National Championship. So injuries to Goran Suton and the recovery of Delvin Roe, and a tough schedule will look like nothing more than continued excuses.

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This edition of the Spartans need to stop worrying about stats and start playing defense, start defending the perimeter against the barrage of 3-pointers, start boxing out and rebounding, start handling the ball, and most importantly show some leadership and a refusal to lose. If they do that, then they can turn this season around and get to where they want to be. Oh, by the way…did I tell you I love Tom Izzo?

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