Mid-Term Report Offense

Michigan State has six games in the books and it's time for Spartan Digest to look at the Spartans offense and breakdown the good and bad so far.

Michigan State welcomes Iowa into Spartan Stadium on Saturday afternoon and what better time to look at the Spartans offense than after reaching the midway point of the season.

The Spartans stand with a 4-2 overall mark on the season with their only losses coming to No.7 ranked Notre Dame (AP & Coaches) and No.8 ranked Ohio State (AP). Both teams enter this weekend undefeated with the Spartans out of both polls.

QUARTERBACK

First year starter Andrew Maxwell has seen several high and low moments so far this season. One thing the junior signal caller has seen a lot of is pressure as the Spartans have seen their share of struggles along the offensive line. Overall Maxwell has been solid hitting on over 56% of his throws with six touchdowns and only three interceptions. Spartan fans should be happy with Maxwell's growth as he continues to show a strong arm and knowing his numbers could be better if the receiving core had done a better job early in the season.

Back-up Connor Cook got mop-up duties against Central Michigan going 5-of-6 for 47 yards. However, he also threw an interception. It would have been nice to see more of Cook in the first six weeks but the Spartans never got in position to give the red-shirt freshman more reps.

Position Grade: A

RUNNING BACK

What more could you ask out of Le'Veon Bell as the junior has been a workhorse in the first six games with 171 carries (28.5 per game). Bell has also been a staple in the passing game and is second on the team with 23 receptions. Fear of Bell running down is real but Mark Dantonio knows how to get the most out of his power backs.

There was hope the Spartans would see more of Larry Caper and Nick Hill early in the season reducing the number of carries given to Bell. However, with a total of 23 carries between them, it does not look like the Spartans offense is geared to get either player more into the offense than we've seen up to this point.

Position Grade: A

RECEIVERS & TIGHT ENDS

Take tight end Dion Sims out of the first six games and the Spartans would be failing at this area. Sims went down against Indiana and his return is uncertain at this time. The performance of Aaron Burbridge against Indian is promising going forward but we must remember he's a true freshman.

Keith Mumphery had a big play against Ohio State and Bennie Fowler could be starting to find his groove. However, Tony Lippett has yet to deliver the big plays many Spartan fans have expected.

Could other younger players like Andrew Sims and MacGarrett Kings begin to get more opportunities? Many hope so as both show great speed and the possibility to deliver big plays.

Outside of Sims the tight end position has seen Andrew Gleichert and Paul Lang combine for two catches. Gleichert has been above average in his blocking assignments but the depth seen the past two seasons at the position is gone.

Position Grade: C

OFFENSIVE LINE

One look at the Spartans depth chart prior to the Boise State game to now will show some of the reasons the Spartans offense has yet to find a true rhythm. Two starters are out in Fou Fonoti and Travis Jackson and the Spartans also saw Blake Treadwell and Skyler Burkland miss valuable time.

This is where stats are misleading as the Spartans have only given up eight sacks on the season. However, 20 quarterback hurries are a telling sign the unit as a whole has struggled.

While you have to give the line some credit for the success of Bell in the running attack there have been many times Bell picks up a majority of his yards on his own after first contact.

Overall this is still a young group when you have a red-shirt freshman and red-shirt sophomore starting on the line.

Senior Ethan Ruhland could see guard Jack Allen move over to center making way for Treadwell's return and Burkland looks to still be shaking off the rust of missing most of last season and part of camp and the first week of this season with injuries or other medical issues.

Growth behind those who are currently starters looks to have been stalled as the Spartans have struggled to get advantages on the scoreboard to give younger players reps.

Position Grade: C+


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