Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Our True Enemy Has Yet to Reveal Himself: Sparty

OK, let's get to work.

As I wrote last week, we're going directly to the source for our Big Ten previews, because nobody knows these teams better than their fans. Our first installment comes from Scott at The Enlightened Spartan. I'll be adding my two cents next time. For now, ES, the blog is yours:

MICHIGAN STATE PREVIEW by The Enlightened Spartan

The Big Green is the little engine that couldn't. And, it hurts. So, let the ES bring the truth and wisdom to the masses.

Michigan State, heretofore to be known as South Central Michigan State College, has done nothing short of disappoint year in and year out, in the most remarkable ways over the past eight years. Has it really been that long since the $4 Million Man strolled the artificial sidelines along the banks of the Red Cedar River? Indeed, it has. The Green was unwilling to fork out the green to make Mr. Nick bionic, and instead, he fused with the machine known as Louisiana State, took the Bayou Bengal to the promised land, returned to the Not For Long unsuccessfully…. All in the process of making Lee Majors look dour by robbing the bank we call “higher education” to ink with a team named after a monthly menstrual cycle, with a weird elephant as a mascot, and fans wearing soap detergent boxes on their heads.

In a nutshell, my oh my how a decade can heap misery upon bewilderment – and, SCMSC just doesn’t have the same ring as ‘Bama. At least not yet.

Enter the Doctor. Mark Dantonio. MD. The 52 year old up and comer from Cincy who wears that ole rugged cross but demands success and attention to detail, a la Jim Tressel. Let’s just make sure the Doctor keeps that pocket book in the desk instead of on the road… but, luckily, SMSC’s tradition doesn’t have a success that can bankroll players like them Buckeyes did for Heisman Award winner Troy Smith and his super sharp duds.

But this is the Big Ten. Demanding success plus experience will probably vault the Doctor to the mid-tier of the coaching ranks and reduce Bozo The Clown induced-stupidity on and off the field reminiscent of Cowboy John L “L is for Loser” Smith. Expect the Doctor’s teams to be more disciplined and better executed, and leave the sideline fiascoes behind to gather historical dust. But, sorry, this year demanding success isn’t enough to equal victories. What SCMSC needs is execution, and depth of talent. Those are the biggest question marks.

The Strengths: The Big Green probably has the most underrated wideouts, running backs, and defensive backfield in the Big Ten.
  • DBs: The Doctor took the Cowboy’s defensive playbook and gave it a failed exorcism. Too may demons, so he just sent it to the fire. In comes Bump-and-Run, which was impressive in the Spring game. Something has to change after hemorrhaging yardage and points the last three years. And, MD has tools to work with. Junior FS Otis Wiley knocked the bejesus out of his Spartan kindred all spring long, and he unloaded the armor consistently on opponents last year. Ditto for DB Travis Key, who isn’t always in the right place at the right time, except for when he can make the highlight reel. These guys are the shit. Nemo, aka Nehemiah Warrick, is a solid cover DB who is the Spartans best tackler in the secondary. Both Kendall (“I still haven’t learned to turn around on deep throws”) Davis-Clark and Ross Weaver have lots of experience. This will be a much improved, and underrated group. It can’t get any worse, but will be better than pundits ever expected.
  • WRs: The Doctor never even bothered to bring the offensive playbook to an exorcism. That one was sent straight to the shitter for a proper burial. The spread is GONE. Out with the flashy, 30 yards to the sidelines and 1 yard down field, and in with the traditional three yards and a cloud of dust, with a splash of flash. Thusly, WRs will not be relied upon to move the chains 60 times a game. And, with SCMSC depleted with loads of overrated and underachieving WRs, it is time to see how the current talent can shine in a more traditional system by throwing that freaking rock downfield. Soph TJ Williams, senior Terry Love, and junior Devin Thomas all have shown significant flashes of brilliance at times – they aren’t returning starters, but us Spartan faithful can see the glory. In this new system, they’ll be more than competent.
  • RBs: The ES is puzzled at the lack of mention of the Spartan running backs. Phil Steele ranks SCMSC #6 in this category – and this is a joke. The Big Green may not have the best OL, but the RBs are right there. I’d rank SCMSC #2 or #3 in the conference here. Junior Javon Ringer is a STUD, the fastest back in the Big Ten and is a muscular phenom. Sure, he’s been injured, but he is a stellar player who strutted his stuff in the Spring Game. He is an excellent running back, in the same mold as Mike Hart. Strong, fast, and darty. But, his backup, Jehuu Caulcrick, is a bowling ball. He is extremely strong, much in the mold of TJ Duckett but with stronger ankles. He moves piles forward. Add in a dash of Ringer Light, aka “AJ Jimmerson” and you have a solid trio with lots of experience and talent. Now, at FB, place Dwayne Holmes. He is a BEAST at 6-0, 275. We Spartan fans have come accustomed to the man absoloutely crush opponents with his blocks, topped by putting down his cranium and pulverizing an Ann Arbor Yellow Belly as a TE two years ago. Yes, Holmes will be more than adequate in this role. He will be extremely effective. He is a bruiser. Add experience, talent, depth, and punishment, and you have to grade this unit out with extremely high marks.
The Weaknesses: The weakness is in the trenches:
  • OL: South Central Michigan State College returns a wealth of experience from a terrible unit the past three years. So what does that mean? The Doctor’s system should help this unit out, changing from a spread offense that relies on speed and nimble footwork, to one that can use some girth and power. There is experience here, especially along the right, with returnees including the Big “O”, junior Roland Martin anchoring at RG and junior Jesse Miller at RT. One the left, unheralded seniors Pete Clifford and Mike Gytvai return as starters. In the middle, John Masters moves over from guard to center, but has been a backup for years. Still, this unit weighs 307-316-285-325-307. That’s 308 pounds of leverage on average. Yeah, lets run, and not pass so much, dammit! Still, this unit has played so poorly the past two years at the expense of former stud Drew Stanton, that it is up to these pizza lovers to prove the ES wrong.
  • DL: The Big Green has had the most pathetic pass rush in America since Saban left for warmer weather. SCMSC recorded 16 sacks last year. That sucks. Basically one-plus a game. SCMSC, however, can implement Pat Narduzzi’s “what a rush!” defense that would make Freddy Kruger proud. Narduzzi will count more on an adequate LB corps help the woeful DL by swarming to the ball instead of spot-playing under the worst-ever defensive coordinator in the history of college football, last year’s Spartan DC Chris Smeland. The line is led by competent ends Ervin Baldwin and Justin Kershaw, but lacks any killer instinct and little depth inside. The DC is praying every Sunday for these guys to stay healthy.
The Rest: Who are the others?

QB Brian Hoyer replaces the oft-injured butextremely-talented Drew Stanton, whose skills were misused and abused by inept Spartan coaches during his tenure at MSU. Hoyer comes in with good arm strength and some game time experience, but had a terrible spring outing. The ES is hoping for an average performance from Hoyer this year, and to rely on his backfield mates to bring home the bacon.

The Spartan LB corps is adequate and deep. Kaleb Thornhill comes from a long line of Thornhills who played LB for SCMSC, and while he puts himself in the right position, he can also get used like a rag doll because he’s a bit light. Better yet, SirDarean Adams has NFL potential written all over him as a smart, positioned player and a sure-tackler.

There is also depth here with talent two-deep. SCMSC replaces an All-America punter with a no-name punter who kicked extremely well in the Spring game, but not as long. He’ll give SCMSC 42 yards a kick, but needs a lot of salami and a few years in the weight room to extend that length. At place kicker is Wheaties boy Brett Swenson, who hit on 15-19 FGs as a true frosh last year, but he cost the Big Green the game vs Purdue with his few misses.

Best offensive player: RB Javon Ringer. The guy is just a stud. Close backup: FB Dwayne Holmes, who will CRUSH anyone in his way.

Best defensive player: LB SirDarean Adams. SDA is as sure of a tackler as there is in the country; the guy just doesn’t miss. Moving his instincts into a leadership role at the weakside will make him more of a playmaker.

Who lays the lumber: FB Dwayne Holmes is a tank.
Who will SCMSC beat that it shouldn’t:  At Purdue.  SCMSC should have beaten this squad last year, and the Spartans had
already fired the Cowboy and still outplayed Tillers’ sissies. SCMSC will go down to that shithole of a town
and kick their arse.
Who will beat SCMSC that shouldn’t: Pitt. SCMSC will be riding high at 2-0, and figuring the shitty Spartan squad that killed Pitt on the road last year should be able to do it at home, no? No dice. This is predictable Spartan territory for a loss. And, to Dave Wannstedt – quite possibly the worst coach in the history of football.

Forecast: The ES figures 5-7/2-6. The problem is that, despite all the optimism of all Spartanland, the schedule is BRUTAL in a better Big Ten. South Central Michigan State College’s non-conference slate is a breeze, especially that matchup against the Goddamn Irish in South Bend. But, the Big Ten is brutal, with stints at OSU, at Wisky, and at Iowa. Add in a home game to scUM and the JoePa “I’m still kicking” Lions, and you have yerself a nightmare rebuilding effort. If the Doctor gets six wins out of this squad, he should be canonized as national coach of the year. Hey, we Spartan fans have been crying in our beers for years over incompetence and utter, dismal failure. But, we still love our little SCMSC. Go STATE!


Anonymous said...

ES - as a Michigan fan I have no issues with saying that you are awesome/hilarious. Nice work. I have many Sparty friends and while I giggled at their pain from having Clown L. Smith as their coach, after awhile it just got to be sad. I hope MSU has a good year (but not against UM!).


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