Michigan State Spartans 2010 NCAA Football Preview

Michigan State Spartans

Big Ten Conference


2009 Record: (6-7, 4-4)

2009 Bowl: Alamo Bowl vs. Texas Tech (L 31-41)

Coach: Mark Dantonio (22-17 at Michigan State, 40-34 overall)

Offensive Coordinator: Don Treadwell

Defensive Coordinator: Pat Narduzzi


Returning Leaders

Rushing: Larry Caper, RB, 468 yards

Passing: Kirk Cousins, QB, 2,680 yards

Receiving: B.J. Cunningham, WR, 641 yards

Tackles: Greg Jones, LB, 154

Sacks: Greg Jones, LB, 9.0

Interceptions: Trenton Robinson, S, 1; Chris L. Rucker, CB, 1


Other Key Returnees: RB Edwin Baker, P Aaron Bates, G Joel Foreman, TE Charlie Gantt, LB Eric Gordon, TE Brian Linthicum, DE Colin Neely, DT Jerel Worthy, OT D.J. Young

Key Losses: DE Trevor Anderson, OT Rocco Cironi, LB Brandon Denson, S Danny Fortener, G Brendon Moss, C Joel Nitchman, K Brett Swenson, CB Jeremy Ware, CB Ross Weaver, WR Blair White, DT Oren Wilson


Spring ball could not have come soon enough for Michigan State. After months of lingering off-field problems, the Spartans were finally able to put that all behind them and play some football. What has resulted is a team that is focused and ready to compete for a Big Ten title. Coach Mark Dantonio has some of the best skill players on offense in the conference, but it will take more than that to win in the Big Ten.



Kirk Cousins won the quarterback battle with Keith Nicol a year ago and is suddenly the unquestioned leader of the offense heading into the 2010 campaign. After completing over 60 percent of his passes and throwing 19 touchdowns and just nine interceptions a year ago, there is no reason to believe that Cousins should not be even better with a year of experience under his belt. In the meantime, Nicol will join a talented group at wide receiver. While steady target Blair White is gone, the Spartans return B.J. Cunningham, Mark Dell, Keshawn Martin and perhaps the best group of tight ends in the nation. Charlie Gantt, Brian Linthicum and Dion Sims are all legitimate pass catching options and those three accounted for seven receiving touchdowns last year. Injuries hampered the ground game, but both Larry Caper and Edwin Baker had solid freshmen campaigns. As long as they stay healthy, the Spartans should be able to spend a little less time in the air and a little more on the ground.



But can the offensive line create space for Caper and Baker? Losing three offensive linemen is a concern. John Stipek should do a fine job filling in at center and the left side of the line returns D.J. Young and Joel Foreman, but there are major question marks on the right side of the offensive line. The defensive line has issues of its own. The Spartans did a good job pressuring the quarterback last year, but that was mostly due to superstar linebacker Greg Jones blitzing. The front four has to get more pressure on the opposing quarterback and that will not be easy without Trevor Anderson. Colin Neely was relatively ineffective in 2009 and underclassmen Denzel Drone, Tyler Hoover and William Gholston will be asked to do a lot.


The Bottom Line:

And the Spartans need to get a pass rush going or the secondary will get torched again. The team ran a three man front line at times last year due to their strength at linebacker, which returns Jones, Eric Gordon and Chris Norman, and hopes to mix up the defense a little more this year and not just drop eight back in obvious passing situations. No matter how well the front line does, there will be a lot of pressure on corners Johnny Adams, Chris L. Rucker and Mitchell White to pick up their game. Rucker is the experienced option, but Adams has a ton of potential after missing last season with a shoulder injury. The secondary needs to improve, but when all is said and done the success or failures of MSU in 2010 will come down to the play of both lines.


2009 Team Stats:

Rushing Offense: 136.85 (73rd in nation, 6th in conference)

Passing Offense: 269.38 (28, 2)

Total Offense: 406.23 (38, 3)

Scoring Offense: 29.69 (36, 2)

Rushing Defense: 113.23 (24, 4)

Pass Defense: 267.62 (112, 11)

Total Defense: 380.85 (73, 8)

Scoring Defense: 26.31 (67, 7)

Turnover Margin: -.46 (94, 10)

Sacks: 2.69 (18, 3)

Sacks Allowed: 1.08 (14, 1)