The only way to bounce back from a disappointing season like last year for the Michigan State football team is to make major changes, use it for motivation and move forward. So far this year, according to offensive lineman Brian Allen, the team practices more, has created a deeper bond and is hungry to get back on the field.
“We got to get better after last season. Three and nine is not acceptable here and not acceptable to any of us.” Allen told Spartan Nation. “I think we have a chip on the shoulder mentality and I think that chip got bigger.”
Not only was last season unacceptable for Allen, it was disappointing especially after all the success Michigan State has seen recently. The team won the Big Ten conference and was one of four teams in the College Football Playoff just two years ago. This year they did not even end with a win. All that combined has led to the extra motivation to improve however possible.
“You’re disappointed any time you have a bad or down year and end on a win. There’s always stuff to work on and we just got to keep plugging away and getting to where we need to be.”
One of the biggest changes has been the spring schedule which is now filled with more practices, meetings and conditioning than Allen is use to at Michigan State. The team wants to soak up every second and use it as productively as possible. This year was the first time Allen has ever had his last spring practice after the spring game which then rolled into summer practices. Whenever there is some free time, the players are using it to improve in some way shape or form.
“We really haven’t even stopped since spring ball ended and our last practice was after the spring game which is the first time that’s happened since I’ve been here,” Allen told Spartan Nation. “We’ve been having OTAs to work on position specific drills and conditioning. We’ve been going since January without much break finding a way to utilize all our time.”
The other biggest change has been making sure players are holding each other accountable for their actions, according to Allen. Before, players would let certain things like skipping a class or being late for a meeting slide, because the team would still win. However, if the team stops winning, the leash becomes a lot shorter. Players need to step up and make sure they are not cutting corners themselves and make sure no one else is either.
“I think in the past it was ok letting some guys get away with some stuff because we’d win on Saturdays, but everything comes to light when you’re not winning,” Allen told Spartan Nation. “We got to clean up the problems that were there liking guys going to class and being to lifts on time. People are starting to demand more of themselves and realize it’s not ok to do that stuff. Basically, be a good person and do the little things. I think those are the things that will help what we’re working on.”
For Allen, this is part of the change that has brought a deeper connection to the players on the team. Now players are feeling like a family together even though they have only just finished spring training. Allen is eager to start the season already to see what the players on the team can do next year.
“We feel a lot more comfortable with each other and keep preaching that family mentality,” Allen told Spartan Nation. “It was there a little last year, but so far I already feel we are closer and more comfortable with each other together. I want to go into the season with these guys and see what we’re capable of. I think we did a great job coming together during tough times”
Being able to pinpoint and make some of these changes took time as it was hard to fully notice them during the season. The time during the season went so fast for Allen that he did not get a chance to fully reflect till after it was all said and done. The team might have been young and talented, but they missed the senior leadership from the 2014 season.
“The season kind of came and went so fast and at the end of it we looked back and wondered what happened,” Allen told Spartan Nation. “There were definitely a lot of aspect that weren’t there last year that were there in 2014. We are still a young football team, we just got to get back to what we had.”
Allen said part of what the team is trying to get back is the leadership from some of the team’s most notable leaders on that 2014 squad such as defensive end Shilique Calhoun, linebacker Darien Harris and his older brother, offensive line man Jack Allen. It was a team led by its players, because the leaders were able to set the right examples and keep player accountable when needed.
“It’s pretty evident what [Jack] has done and the example he’s set. That whole class with guys like Shalique and Darrien Harris, those guys were such great leaders that coaches didn’t have to tell them what to do,” Allen told Spartan Nation. “It was a player led team and we’re just trying to get back to that.”
One things for certain, Allen does not believe the flux of the quarterback position last year was a problem for the offensive line, especially since each one was hurt as some point of the season. The only adjusting he had to make was making sure everyone on the line was on the same page for the cadence.
Moving towards roster changes, Allen said he was quite impressed with the entire class his younger brother, Matt Allen, is in on the offensive line. Allen sees a lot of talent moving forward and believes it will come down to how hard each individual wants to work.
“They all pretty much stood out to me and I’m pretty happy with them,” Allen told Spartan Nation. “All three of those guys are going to have good opportunities to be good players depending on how hard they want to work, but the potential is definitely there.”
The rest of the class includes Luke Campbell and AJ Arcuri. Allen had high praises for Campbell who has put himself in the position to the be the starting right tackle going into training camp due to his work in spring. Campbell got most of his initial reps at guard, but has put himself in a position to be a starting tackle in such a short time. To put it in perspective, Allen said that Campbell only had a few practices at right tackle before the spring game. He’s young, but the potential is there.
“Most of Luke’s initial reps were at guard, then we gave him a shot at tackle and he’s put himself in the position to be our right tackle going into camp,” Allen told Spartan Nation. “He hasn’t had much practice there, but I think he’s just going to keep getting better.”
Keep a close eye on Spartan Nation as the Spartans enter the summer conditioning program on Thursday.