Spartan Nation 2009 Scouting Report: Michigan State Spartans
Biggest Game: October 3rd, 2009 Michigan
Predicted record: 9-3
Projected Big Ten standing: 4th Alamo Bowl
Returning Starters: 15; OFFENSE 7, DEFENSE 8 Lettermen returning: 45
Head Coach: Mark Dantonio 3rd Season at MSU Last Season: 9-4 Lifetime: 34-27
Top assistant: OC Don Treadwell, DC Pat Narduzzi, Strength Coordinator Ken Mannie
Number of Players on the All Spartan Nation Big Ten Team: 5; OG Joel Foreman, LB Greg Jones, CB Chris L. Rucker, K Brett Swenson and P Aaron Bates
Analysis: The Spartans are riding a wave of momentum not seen in East Lansing since Duffy Daugherty roamed the sidelines. Certainly, they won a Rose Bowl under George Perles, but this has been the best two and a half years in the program since Duffy.
Dantonio has top to bottom a superb staff. He has three top assistants and treats all as equals. He trusts them and listens to them. As great as Dantonio is, his staff is as good and one of the main reasons for the resurgence of Spartan football.
Dantonio has done an unbelievable job of restoring hope and stability and has along with his staff returned the Spartan Nation to prominence all over the nation. The Spartans have four big question marks entering the season.
1.Quarterback: Who will win it and how hard will the learning curve be? The Spartans are blessed to have two very good QBs in the fold and both can lead this team. Kirk Cousins went into the spring as the #1 QB and came out of it as such. That, however, shouldnâ€™t discount Keith Nichol as both will play early and when the games count is when someone can step up and truly take it.
2.RT and RG: Three-year starters Jesse Miller and Roland Martin are gone and who will step up? Jâ€™Michael Deane had a very good spring at RT, and the job is his to lose. The concern with Deane is his ability to compete and maintain that commitment and fire and he showed all spring and off-season that he can. At RT Jared McGaha stepped up and played well. He has to prove that he is tough enough to take the beating of the Big Ten, but he has given no indication that he canâ€™t. Although Deane and McGaha would start if the season started today. This is far from settled, and look for the battle to continue well into the late summer.
3.RB: How do you replace Javon Ringer? If the season were to start today it would be by committee. The good news is that it doesnâ€™t, and although the Spartans have several good solid backs, they also have two of the best freshman in the nation that will hit East Lansing come fall and will certainly get a chance to win it.
4.DB: Can they stay healthy? Talent isnâ€™t the issue and there are several good ones back there for the Spartans. However defensive back has been snake bitten for several years at MSU and can they stay healthy?
Those four areas will determine if the Spartans go 8-4 or 10-2? Relying on freshmen is dangerous at this level and new players make new mistakes. I split the difference and say 9-3, but 8-4 or 10-2 wouldnâ€™t shock me.
I have maintained for years that the Spartans have to win at least two games in a row with the Wolverines to bring the rivalry back. That is why I picked that game as the biggest. Two other huge games are at Notre Dame (9/19) and at Wisconsin (9/26). The Spartans need to be able to win on the road to contend in the Big Ten. I realize that Notre Dame is not a Big Ten team, but I have maintained for years that game is the unofficial start to the Big Ten season and it has often been the barometer of how the team will play. Both of these places are hard to win at, and I think the Spartans have the talent and the coaching to win at both, but you have to be careful with expectations with some youth in there.
The Spartans are one year away from being serious contenders for a Big Ten title and two years away from winning it in my opinion, but hope is strong. This is one of the best staffs in the nation and Dantonio has things rolling at MSU. They will face adversity and the Spartan Nation should be excited, but temper that excitement remembering how bad things were here. I wholeheartedly believe that the Spartans overachieved last season and that can put extra gas on a fire that burns with expectation. I understand those expectations, but people need to keep it in perspective.
Being ahead of schedule shouldnâ€™t make people think that we are more than we are. We have an exceptional coach and staff, good players, but the process is far from over.
1.Montana State WIN
3.@ Notre Dame WIN
4.@ Wisconsin LOSS
6.@ Illinois LOSS
9.@ Minnesota WIN
10.Western Michigan WIN
11.@ Purdue WIN
12.Penn State LOSS