SpartanDigest Mailbag: September 5

Answering your questions about Michigan State football, basketball and recruiting!

Connor Cook aside, who is the most important player for Michigan State on Saturday? I'm going to take Taiwan Jones, because I think he has the most responsibility.

I would say Jones as well. He has to be able to get Michigan State up to the line and ready to go quickly in between plays and has to be able to do what Mark Dantonio talked about throughout preseason camp: String plays together. What Oregon does well is it comes at you with similar plays – if not the same one – over and over until it breaks a big one. A lot of that pressure falls on Jones. Others that come to my mind: Travis Jackson/Donavon Clark at guard, Darian Hicks at corner – interior run blocking and the tackling ability of the corners matter to me in this one.

Has Brandon Clemons made any progress in 1st or 2nd week on the OL? Is Dennis Finley starting to look better as a backup?

Clemons already had played offensive line in his Michigan State career, so it was not a crazy transition to make. I am not sure if he is in the rotation yet, but he might have to be in this one – or at least soon, as there was not a lot of rotation compared to last year. As for Finley, I have not seen enough of him to speak to his play, so I won’t.

Rank the reserve offensive linemen in order of most likely to play out of necessity after Brian Allen.

Well, Allen is the first guard off the bench. That does allow MSU flexibility to move Clark to right tackle and give Kodi Kieler a breather if it needs to. But in terms of just bench guys, I think Miguel Machado and Benny McGowan are kind of the next two. Machado, it appears, will be redshirted unless MSU really feels it needs him and he is ready (I have never understood why because redshirting him puts him in the same class as Conklin/Kieler, so he still not a starter). It really does show you how much Connor Kruse’s injury impacts this team.

After Tony Lippett, do you think that Cook has a “favorite” wideout?

Lippett certainly is the No. 1. Behind him, though, the Spartans have a variety of weapons to choose from when it comes to the passing game. My first instinct was to say MacGarrett Kings is his next favorite, but realistically when you look at the way last season went, Cook had little stretches with Lippett, Bennie Fowler, Kings, etc, where he seemed to go to them the most. I think that still is the case.

Do you think that Jamal Lyles' blocking is yet good enough for him to be a primary TE? Is Josiah Price that much better at the point of attack?

I think Lyles is just fine being a tight end that plays plenty of snaps. Both have the frame and physicality to be good at the point of attack. Honestly, I have felt that this week MSU is going to use Lyles and Price plenty to try and provide mismatches and such. They were underutilized last week and my guess is that was to hold their hand for Oregon.

A lot of the talk going into this week's game has been about team speed. Do you think MSU has the speed to match up with the Ducks or will they have to try and slow things down like many people are predicting?

Pat Narduzzi straight up said it the other day, when you watch film, it is clear Oregon is faster than Michigan State. That said, I think Michigan State has enough speed to be competitive defensively against Oregon’s offense. In large part, that is because the defense is so built on assignments. That (somewhat) compensates for a difference in speed.

Is Mylan Hicks going to play even more than he did last week? He's got near-corner speed as a linebacker, and if can fulfill his assignments properly it would seem like this is his time.

I think Hicks, Riley Bullough and probably Jon Reschke are going to matter a lot in this game. Rotation is going to be huge, especially on defense, to stay fresh all the way into the fourth quarter. Hicks brings the most speed, naturally, as he was a defensive back. I figure he will see the field plenty.

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