Green Lenses Turns Focus on MSU Football, Basketball and Tigers

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SPARTAN FOOTBALL: Wow, am I proud of these guys for at least reaching their goals of first, finishing and winning their close games, and secondly, getting to a New Year’s Bowl game. The better news is the future looks bright with only thirteen seniors leaving but those thoughts are also tempered realizing that it will include a couple of guys that will be harder to replace than you think in Javon Ringer and Brian Hoyer.

 

After getting blown out in their big games earlier in the year, they not only kept it competitive, but you could argue they could have won had they come up with some better game-planning and execution in the red zone. Twenty-six times they snapped the ball in the Georgia end of the field in the first half, but could only muster 23 yards and six points. After that happened, it was only a matter of time before you knew Georgia was going to put something together offensively and that the Spartans had probably squandered opportunities they might not get back.

 

I think the most frustrating part of the game was when the Spartans had cut the lead to 17-12. Some Spartans fans were getting really excited and I said, “Hold on, have you ever seen a Narduzzi touchdown?” What’s that,” they asked. “That’s this phenomenon that happens with MSU football that whenever the MSU offense scores a touchdown, they quickly give one up on defense to negate the score they just received.” Of course I have been talking about this all year but they looked at me like I was nuts until Georgia took the ball and promptly drove the ball down the field and scored to put the game out of reach. As the Bulldogs scored, I looked at them and barked with my best Bo Schembechler impression,

“THAT, is a Narduzzi touchdown.” This guy had a puzzled look on his face and asked, “How did you know that was going to happen?” I said, “It’s not a secret son, they do this every game, you just have to pay attention.” Which really was the major disappointment for me in that, faced with opportunity to dig deep and have fire in the belly in this game, they failed yet again to at least give the offense a chance to win the game. However, give Narduzzi and the staff credit. They shut down Moreno for the most part, and took away Massaquoi and Green for most of the game. In fact, it was the offense that really failed to capitalize on their great and many opportunities to win this game.

 

How does the Spartan football team improve for next year? Offensively it will not be just about replacing Ringer and Hoyer, but getting schematically better. The passing game, especially in the red zone, leaves much to be desired. Opposing team have jumped routes all year and like I said last year and this year, the patterns aren’t really fooling anyone. No double moves or hitches or imagination in the passing game. In addition, no established hot receiver patterns that effectively can move the ball when there is heat. Georgia was blitzing all day and essentially there was no check down options where you felt MSU could move the ball and hit a receiver in stride. This is not just a Hoyer problem as many want to believe, although he has a tendency to overthrow receivers. If they put the new QB’s into this same schematic offense, there will be similar problems. Things have to change. By the way, the trick plays should trick someone shouldn’t they? Those need to be looked at as well. Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol should provide adequate help. Running back help may come from the true freshmen or perhaps Glen Winston is he gets his problems straightened out. He has a nice combination of power and speed.

 

 

In my preseason preview of the Spartan offense I mentioned that MSU lacked both explosiveness and game changing ability with the loss of wide out Devin Thomas. I found it ironic that at the end of the season, and in the fourth quarter, broadcaster Todd Blackledge made the same assessment. Look, it’s as simple as this the Spartans have some quality

‘possession’ type receivers but nobody that will scare you. I can also say the same of any

recruits that have verbally committed to MSU to this point as well. Both the offensive and defensive lines have to get better. Ken Mannie does a good job with conditioning and endurance, and likes to say we are developing football players and not power lifters, but the inside trench players on both sides of the ball need to get stronger and more physical since  they were handled many times in the big games. Mannie needs to take a different approach with the interior linemen and develop some lower base power.

 

Speaking of defensive linemen, the Spartans would be wise to recruit some impact players their and at wide receiver. MSU is looking at converting some of their highly-touted linebackers form a year ago to defensive end, and perhaps that will help, it worked with

Brandon Long, but when you play better teams, that puts you at a size disadvantage. Plus, if MSU is ever going to compete on a bigger stage, they will need difference makers along the defensive line. They really never replaced Jonal St Dic and Ervin Baldwin, and now they have more losses this year on the defensive front. It seems like they have recruited some decent offensive linemen but no impact defensive linemen outside of perhaps Corey Freeman. Tyler Hoover from last years class is going to have to step up.

 

I thought special teams in terms of kicking/punting the ball, and in kick and punt coverage, the Spartans were pretty good. I think where they lack is in a true explosive return man on punt returns and kick returns (although MSU had a pretty good kick returner in Glen Winston before his situation came to light). Their fakes punts leave a lot to be desired and they seldom block kicks. So there is lot of room for improvement here. Finding a kickoff man for Boleski will be important to. You don’t want to waste Swenson’s leg for that.

Perhaps Johnny Adams could return punts since he was such an electric punt returner in

High school.

 

 

SPARTAN BASKETBALL: Apparently someone must be reading our website because that is as good a basketball effort as I have seen in some time from MSU in their victory over Minnesota. For once it was a throwback to the glory days of Mateen Cleaves. The Spartans locked down the paint against the Gophers, for the most part limited perimeter opportunities, hit the offensive glass, and they ran the floor with regularity. Kalin Lucas is quickly gaining maturity and confidence in running the show, and Durrell Summers is as good as anyone in the country in the open floor and in filling the lane. Goran Suton can hit the perimeter shots with regularity now ala AJ Granger (although he needs a little work around the rim if you saw him miss a dunk and a couple bunny attempts), and Travis Walton is an excellent defender. Throw in Morgan, Roe, Ibok, Allen, and others and you have the making of a Final Four team IF they play consistently, and by that I mean, they continue to play defense, especially on the perimeter.

 

By the way, when is the last time you saw the Spartans hit the offensive glass the way they did against Minnesota? Overall, MSU had a 49-27 rebounding advantage and a 23-11 offensive rebounding advantage. As you know, I called them out when they didn’t perform and like to “keep it real” when I have to, but at the same time, when they play up to their potential, you have to give them credit. Great job guys. Yet, let’s keep in mind that it is one game and MSU’s achilles heel since 2000 has been a lack of consistency. Keep it going.

 

DETROIT TIGERS: I have a few belated thoughts on the Tigers moves as well. I know I said you have to have pitching and defense and be strong up the middle to win baseball games, but maybe I should add an addendum. The guys you bring in have to HIT a little bit. Come on now? Adam Everett? He hit .213 with two homeruns and 20 rbi’s in 2008. You can say he was injured last year, but he was also is a career .246 hitter. They also added catcher Matt Treanor, who had two homeruns, 23 rbi’s, and batted a whopping .238 for Florida last year. They also added another catcher in Gerald Laird, who is a lifetime backup and .255-career hitter. I get the feeling that these new additions aren’t going to scare anyone, especially the Yankees or the Red Sox, and that Dave Dombrowski is losing whatever touch he had with the Florida Marlins. Pitcher Edwin Jackson was added to the starting rotation, which should help some as well, right? Fans facing an economic crunch should be able to save some sports entertainment dollars supporting these guys and the Lions.

 

 

 

 

 

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