East Lansing, MI
As one of only two programs in all of college football to finish the season ranked in the top ten the last three years, Mark Dantonio has a big say on staying power. He has proven over his nine completed seasons and entering his tenth that he knows what it takes for Michigan State to be great.
The game of football is a glorious example of unity, beauty and pure exceptional art when played with fluidity on the offensive line. Few things are prettier. When Dantonio arrived he wanted his “five” guys and then stuck with them. That has evolved for a lot of reasons, mostly the intuition and cajoling of OL Coach Mark Staten.
So as Dantonio enters the spring minus two All Americans who look to their NFL careers next in Jack Allen and Jack Conklin. While Dantonio is still searching for the proverbial five guys? Will he stick with his new philosophy of even more bodies in the rotation?
“Really the last three years, we've used about eight guys, so it's been a situation where -- and I think Coach Staten has done a great job with this, getting different guys experience to be able to play eight guys and move them really in and out of games like that, and that's benefitted us, I think, when we've had injuries. We've been able to plug in a guy that has significant game experience.”
He went on to add about his team and their multidimensional approach to the offensive line that, “I think we'll still maintain that approach. I think we have those numbers. That's been a good thing for us. So guys like Tyler Higby, some of our younger players, Cole Chewins, those guys are redshirt freshman, Noah Listermann, redshirt freshman, those type of guys, to see how they've come, but it's early in the spring, but I do think that some of those guys have a big upside. David Beedle moved over there, was a redshirt freshman last year. I think that's going to pay dividends. Clemons is back for a sixth year, so we've got different pieces in there who we can move people around with game experience, and then also I think it just benefits us to have eight moving around. I don't think five any more is the perfect answer for us. I think eight more is like it.”
When the depth chart came out for the springthere was one position that surprised some people. With Jack Allen moving on to the NFL many thought that Brian Allenwould simply slide over from guard to center and the line would keep moving. That is not the case.
Kodi Kieler the 6’6” 310#starting RT from last year has joined Allen at the first string center position. That simply bolsters the Spartans flexibility at the games most crucial point of attack. Having a monster in Kieler that can slide in or out and a nimble and athletic Allen (whose brother played C, G & LT) able to slip in and out at multiple positions, the Spartans are only going to be more dangerous for a new starting QB.
“We've always used multiple players at center. I think that we need to train a guy into that position, as well. Kodi has a tremendous amount of experience, and so we felt like that's a position that he could possibly play, so we'll experiment with that position, move a little bit, and then also Brian Allen will play guard, as well.”
So while the starters on the OL may be in question, the talent and the ability should not be. I expect the 2016 OL to be a place of strength, not weakness.