Notebook: USF edition

The Spartans burned a second redshirt and showed some hints at what they want to do offensively to offset the passing game struggles. More thoughts on the quarterback situation and more.

Taking a look at what I noticed and what stood out in Michigan State's 21-6 win against South Florida on Saturday:

**The Spartans know less at quarterback now than they did after Western Michigan. Those who felt Tyler O'Connor didn't get exactly what they were looking for, but he also wasn't bad in the little bit of time he was given.

**O'Connor had moments where he looked like a player getting his first playing time, but he also had moments where he looked poised. I thought he was good at moving around in the pocket and getting outside. He did a great job finding MacGarrett Kings over the middle. He also did a good job of hanging in there and letting the screen pass to Jeremy Langford develop.

**Of the three quarterbacks that played, I have the least confidence in Connor Cook. He makes throws that baffle you at times and I am just not sold that the running abilities he has make up for the inaccuracy throwing the ball and inability to throw downfield. He just doesn't set his feet in the pocket and throws all over the place. The most telling thing with Cook to me is his body language. When he threw the ball behind Langford – a bad throw – which Langford couldn't reel in, Cook kind of stood there looking like he appalled. I noticed the same thing after a legitimate drop last week.

**I thought the way the Spartans elected to play R.J. Shelton was interesting. He brings speed, that much is for sure. After moving him to wide receiver, it seemed he was headed for a redshirt. Yet there he was Saturday and he showed why he is playing. He is just fast. The Spartans handed him the ball twice on jet sweeps and used him as a decoy the rest of the time.

At some point, Shelton's role will have to be expanded to screens or passes downfield or defenses will know exactly what is happening with Shelton is on the field – a jet sweep or a handoff up the middle. He is the second freshman to play so far, joining Darian Hicks.

**What you see with Shelton is key to what MSU is trying to do offensively to offset teams stacking the box. They had a double-reverse to Aaron Burbridge and they had a reverse to Nick Hill. They are working to spread the defense out and take the ball outside in ways other than the passing game.

**Jamal Lyles played at tight end, as SpartanDigest first reported last week. He looked effective as a H-back and blocking, the same way the Spartans have been using Josiah Price early this year. That position is alarmingly ineffective right now. If I counted correctly, there was just one throw to a tight end and it was O'Connor's into the end zone in heavy coverage to Andrew Gleichert.

**Nick Hill is not the same player he was last year. He is running with vision and power and showing he can really do some things. Will he be a force in Big Ten play? That will be something to watch.

**Riley Bullough looked much better as a running back this week than he did last week. He hit the hole quicker and moved well. Jeremy Langford continues to show good quickness and ability to break tackles. His development is encouraging. The thought of what the run game could do with an effective passing game is wild.

**Shilique Calhoun … that is all.

**Pass blocking remains a problem. I am not sold on Donavon Clark at left tackle. He has improved his pass blocking from last season, but still whiffs on some plays which is a major problem at left tackle. Fou Fonoti came in for Jack Conklin, who had a hurt arm at some point early. So, Fonoti is healthy enough to play, but isn't starting. In my mind, get that offensive line chemistry by having him play, but there must be something holding him back.

**On a play in the second quarter, the Spartans went with a defensive line of all ends. Calhoun and Marcus Rush were on the outside, while Denzel Drone and Joel Heath were on the inside. That was a new one from Pat Narduzzi, I believe.

**Unheralded players: Tyler Hoover and Denicos Allen. Both had great games Saturday. When it comes to Hoover and the other linemen, you can see the impact Ron Burton has had. Those guys are playing very well early this season.


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