Scott Reed - Spartan Digest

Spartan Digest hands out our first grade cards on the Michigan State offense as the Spartans have finished out of conference play for 2015.

Following Saturday’s 30-10 win over Central Michigan, Michigan State ended their part of the non-conference schedule with a perfect 4-0 mark. While the won-loss record is what we expected, there are some areas of concern as the Spartans get ready to start Big Ten play against Purdue on Saturday. Spartan Digest looks at the Spartans offense and hands out our grades.

The No. 2 ranked team in both college football polls is the Michigan State Spartans.  Mark Dantonio’s team did what was expected going 4-0 in non-conference play to open the season and the Spartans have been rewarded.  

But how does Spartans Digest see the program's offensive performance after four game?  

We hand out grade cards starting the Spartans offense.

QUARTERBACK

Connor Cook is currently posting the kind of stats we expected to see from him.  Much like last season, Cook is hitting just over 58-percent of his passes with only one interception.  Cook is only averaging 209.5 yards per game down from the 247.2 per game a season ago.  But his efficiency is up from last season so far.  During the Oregon game we saw Cook throwing lasers to his receivers and on top of his game.  The past couple of weeks he’s look a little off his game in making multiple progression reads.  One thing we feel Cook has improved upon is taking the sack instead of throwing the ball up for a possible interception.  The first four games of the season allowed Cook to tie Kirk Cousins for all-time wins as a Spartans starting quarterback with 27 and unless something major happens he should pass Cousins this week against Purdue.  The fact we've not really seen Tyler O'Connor or Damion Terry is a concern for the future. Cook has been solid but we expect more and feel his best football of the season is upon us.  GRADE: B

RUNNING BACK

The biggest question coming into the season was at running back and for good reasons.  We feel it is safe to say that Delton Williams has either been serving an unannounced penalty for his actions this spring or he’s not playing this season.  No matter what happens with Williams it is safe to say the Spartans are sitting solid at running back with Madre London, L.J. Scott and Gerald Holmes.  While the trio is not on par with what Jeremy Langford did a year ago, they are just scratching the surface of their production.

We feel it is only a matter of time before we see Scott in an even bigger role as he continues to pick up more of the offense.  London has been solid but not great and Holmes provides a nice change of pace.  This area of the Spartans offense should continue to improve in the coming weeks as each player earns more experience.  GRADE: B

TIGHT END

It only seems like Josiah Price is Cook’s main target.  The fact is Price is on pace to have a bigger season this year than last as he’s already recorded four touchdowns this season after having six last season.  The Spartans are strong at this position with Price, Jamal Lyles and Paul Lang and while it may not show up in the stat sheet, each player has shown improvement in their overall game including blocking.  GRADE: A

WIDE RECEIVER

The second biggest question heading into the season was here and the early showing of Aaron Burbridge has silenced many of the preseason fears.  Burbridge only had 29 catches a year ago and is already sitting with 24 on the season to go with his four touchdowns. MacGarrett Kings has become Cook’s second go-to guy and he’s made some great plays.  But he’s also missed a few key catches the Spartans needed.  As seen against Central Michigan, the pair early on are the main targets.  Others need to step up if given the chance and provide more depth.  GRADE: B-

OFFENSIVE LINE

This was to be the strongest part of the Spartans offense and at times they have proven to be.  An injury to Kodi Kieler against Oregon forced for some shifting around as Donavon Clark has been going between right tackle and right guard with Benny McGowan getting the last two starts at right guard and Miguel Machado getting reps at right tackle.  Machado has struggled at times in pass protection and getting high off the ball.  McGowan played well against Oregon but has seen some struggles pulling and getting squared to block downfield. Saturday’s loss of Jack Conklin allowed for us to see Dennis Finley and his potential.  How long Conklin is out will determine if the Spartans struggle long term.  Clark has played very well taking into account he’s flipping back and forth and Jack Allen and Brian Allen are playing as expected. GRADE: B









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