#17 Michigan State Football 2012 Preview

Michigan State Spartans

Overall Rank: #17
#3 Big Ten Conference
Michigan State College Football 2012 Team Preview
Michigan State Team Page


Michigan State has shown the ability to mold their offense to fit their strengths. Last year Kirk Cousins and a bevy of experienced receivers had the ball flying through the air. The team ranked second in the Big Ten in passing offense and 11th in rushing offense. The last time MSU had so much inexperience at wide receiver and a quarterback they did not really trust to throw the ball too much was back in 2008. That year running back Javon Ringer carried the ball 390 times in 13 games. That may be what the Spartans have in mind again this year with running back Le’Veon Bell leading the ground attack. Bell split carries with Edwin Baker in 2011, but led the way 948 yards and 13 scores. Larry Caper and Nick Hill should provide a little more quality depth than Ringer had in 2008, so do not expect 390 carries for Bell in 2012, but if the new look passing game struggles, Bell will be the workhorse.

2011 Record: (11-3, 7-1)
2011 Bowl: Outback Bowl vs. Georgia (W 33-30)
Coach: Mark Dantonio (44-22 at Michigan State, 62-39 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Dan Roushar
Defensive Coordinator: Pat Narduzzi

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Le’Veon Bell, RB, 948 yards
Passing: Andrew Maxwell, QB, 171 yards
Receiving: Le’Veon Bell, RB, 267 yards
Tackles: Max Bullough, LB, 89
Sacks: Denicos Allen, LB, 11.0
Interceptions: Johnny Adams, CB, 3; Darqueze Dennard, CB, 3

Other Key Returnees: OT Fou Fonoti, OT Dan France, DE William Gholston, C Travis Jackson, S Isaiah Lewis, G Chris McDonald, LB Chris Norman, DE Marcus Rush

Key Losses: RB Edwin Baker, QB Kirk Cousins, WR B.J. Cunningham, G Joel Foreman, TE Brian Linthicum, WR Keshawn Martin, DT Kevin Pickelman, S Trenton Robinson, S Trenton Robinson

Despite airing the ball out so much, the Spartans defense put up some great numbers. They ranked ninth in the nation in rushing defense and sixth in total defense, allowing a mere 277.43 yards per game. The rush defense may take a step back with nose tackle Kevin Pickelman and tackle Jerel Worthy gone. Tyler Hoover has plenty of experience and Anthony Rashad White is another senior who is ready to step into the starting lineup. Sophomore James Kittredge has impressed after moving to the defensive line last season. This was a team that caused a lot of havoc in the opposing backfield last year, averaging 3.14 sacks per contest. William Gholston is a 6-7 beast on the end and totaled 70 tackles as a sophomore. The aptly named Marcus Rush will get to the quarterback from the other end. But it is linebacker Denicos Allen who really turned the Spartans into a major pass rushing threat in 2011. He tallied 11.0 sacks and should be in for another huge year as an upperclassman. Max Bullough, the team’s leading tackler in 2011, and Chris Norman, a versatile senior, return to form one of the best linebacker corps in the nation. The secondary did lose Trenton Robinson, but Coach Mark Dantonio hopes sophomore Kurtis Drummond can step into the free safety spot. Strong safety Isaiah Lewis burst onto the scene last year and earned plenty of All-Big Ten accolades. Speaking of accolades, cornerbacks Johnny Adams and Darqueze Dennard have, and will, garner plenty of their own. Adams will be playing on Sunday next year and has even practiced a little at wide receiver. But his biggest contributions will come as a shutdown corner.

Andrew Maxwell has been the quarterback in waiting for the last two years and he secured his job as the starter heading into the 2012 campaign. The 6-3 junior has all the makings of a quality quarterback, but his lack of experience and the loss of receivers B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin and Keith Nichol, along with tight end Brian Linthicum will not make the transition easy. The Spartans have a bevy of talented, yet unproven, receivers. After junior Bennie Fowler, the depth chart is littered with underclassmen. Sophomores Keith Mumphery, Tony Lippett and DeAnthony Arnett, a transfer from Tennessee who is eligible to play immediately, along with freshmen like Andre Sims, Juwan Caesar and Aaron Burbridge are all capable and potentially exciting receivers. It will just take some time to figure out if the receivers turn out to be a weakness or if they are just yet to prove themselves at this level.

The Bottom Line:
One thing the offense does have going for it is the offensive line. Guard Joel Foreman is the only starter lost from an offensive line that did a fine job in 2011 and Blake Treadwell is ready to fill that void at the guard position. Chris McDonald will man the other guard spot with sophomore Travis Jackson returning at center. Tackles Dan France and Fou Fonoti may not be the most intimidating tackles in the Big Ten, but they have proven to be solid as both run and pass blockers. Back to back trips to Michigan and Wisconsin could be the only thing stopping the Spartans from reaching another Big Ten Championship game as long as the passing game can at least be a little bit of a threat to open up some holes for Bell on the ground.

Projected Bowl: Capital One Bowl

2011 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 137.93 (78th in nation, 11th in conference)
Passing Offense: 252.50 (41, 2)
Total Offense: 390.43 (56, 4)
Scoring Offense: 31.00 (31, 3)
Rushing Defense: 100.50 (9, 1)
Pass Defense: 176.93 (11, 3)
Total Defense: 277.43 (6, 1)
Scoring Defense: 18.36 (10, 3)
Turnover Margin: .50 (26, 3)
Sacks: 3.14 (7, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 1.14 (19, 2)

Madness 2012 Football Recruit Rankings:
#83 Aaron Burbridge