"When does basketball season start," was on the mind of Spartan nation as the football team lost to Penn State, ending their disappointing season.
But now, with the Men's basketball season coming to an abrupt end in the first round of the NCAA tournament, to George Mason of all teams, the focus turns back towards anticipation for a new football season and renewed hopes for a promising year.
Among the returning pieces to the offense is likely Big Ten MVP and Heisman candidate, quarterback Drew Stanton. Joining Stanton are last year's freshman phenomenon running back Javon Ringer, solid wideouts Matt Trannon and Kerry Reed. On defense, the Spartans return bandit Sir Darean Adams, linebacker Kaleb Thornhill, and defensive lineman David Stanton.
An astounding 25 newcomers are in the mix to join the playing group, including 17 of them on defense. There's going to be a real dog fight every day in practice to grab those coveted spots in the playing group and starting spots are up for grabs, especially along the offensive line and on defense.
GoSpartans.net takes a look at the way the Spartans could line up with practices begin to shake out the competitors from the pretenders.
A great defense starts in the trenches, which led John L. Smith to five-star defensive end Ervin Baldwin (6-foot-2, 252 lbs)formely of Reedley College.
Baldwin comes over from junior college carrying two years of eligibility, and should compete with redshirt freshman Justin Kershaw, Derrick Outlaw, and Nick Smith for a starting spot opened up by departed senior Michael Bazemore. Cifton Ryan returns to start at defensive end.
Baldwin can provide, "strength and speed coming off the corner," said John L. Smith. Baldwin was the Spartans highest ranked incoming recruit.
Up the middle, David Stanton is the only one who has much experience under his belt. Reggie Graham, Bobby Jones, Tramonte Pointer, Charlie Rewoldt, Joe Toth, and Jonal Saint-Dic will all be given chances to claim a spot. These are all big guys and have been around a while, although not seeing much playing time. Keep an eye on newcomer Ogemdi Nwagbuo (6-foot-4, 287 lbs), who is, "getting stronger by the day," said John L. Smith.
The line took a major hit this off-season with the losses of center Chris Morris, tackle Stefon Wheeler, and guard Gordon Niebylski. The three have provided stability on the offensive line and in their absence, defensive line coach Lucious Sermon has some work to do in putting together an effective line to protect quarterback Drew Stanton.
Fighting to impress Selmon and Smith will be Mike Bacon, Rocco Cironi, Pete Clifford, Kyle Cook, Roland Martin, Jesse Miller, Brandon Moss, Joel Nitchman, Mike Schmeding, Kenny Shane, and Daniel Zynn. Tackles Mike Gyetvai and Tom Kaczmarek are two guys who got experience last year and should lead the offensive line.
Offensive Line Newcomers: Jason Diehl (6-foot-3, 297 lbs) is the only offensive lineman brought in by Coach Smith, showing his confidence that the Spartans have plenty of guys to make a great line.
These are just two of the positions getting heavy competition for starting spots. Stick with Gospartans.net for more coverage as practices get under way.