MSU Preview

The 'Aug. 1st' issue (The Team/Pre Big Ten Preview) of the magazine is reaching subscribers' mailboxes.<br><br> Meanwhile, we're hard at work on the 'Sept. 1st' issue, The Big Ten Preview. Here's a teaser. For the issue, we asked each of the Big Ten Insiders sites to provide us THEIR preview of their team. Here is the MSU site's. We present it to you now, in its entirety, because of its good-humored-ness, which we'll pretty much have to edit out for the magazine.

MSU Preview 2003 for GoBlueWolverine Magazine
by The Enlightened Spartan (MichiganState.TheInsiders.com)

Michigan State University
Head Coach John L. Smith
2002 Record: (overall/conf., place finish in conf. finish): 4-8, 2-6 Big Ten, T-8th
Returning starters (including kicker and punter). Offense: 7 Defense: 9
Projected ranking (by Phil Steele): 10th in the conference.

Prognosis for 2003: The Spartans will be much improved over last year for the following reasons: 1. MSU fired lame-brained coach Bobby Williams and replaced him with no-nonsense coach John L. Smith; 2. it can't get any worse than last year; the only way to go is up. Watch coach Smith pull a rabbit out of a hat to get MSU to return to its traditional form of mediocrity at 7-5 or 6-6; the Spartans will win some of the games it is supposed to lose, and lose some of the games it is supposed to win. And, make no mistake about it, the Wolverines will have to earn their victory on Nov. 1 in East Lansing; John L. won't make it easy. Expect a record of 6-6/3-5. Of note: John L. Smith has NEVER had losing record in conference play in his 15 years of head coaching experience.

Offensive impact players: WR Matt Trannon, QBs Jeff Smoker/Drew Stanton. Watch Matt Trannon emerge as an impact player in absence of Charles Rogers. He is a tall, speedy target at 6-7 with 4.5-speed. And, at QB, both drug-free Smoker and neophyte Stanton impressed in Spring ball and can succeed as field general.

Offensive strengths: At QB, the Spartans have ample depth with impressive rookie Drew Stanton, rehabbed Jeff Smoker, and experience Damon Dowdell.

Offensive weaknesses: The OL should be a strength with ample experience and depth; but, it has been a disastrous unit and a glaring weakness the past three years. Without the juice to numb the pain, Smoker likely would have been hospitalized for taking such a beating. There was a reason to Smoker's madness. The OL has something to prove, but likely won't.

Defensive impact player: John L. Smith and DE Clifford Dukes. John L is praying that changing schemes will reduce the punishment the Spartan D took last season. Dukes is the best chance the Spartans have for a decent pass rush since 1999.

Defensive strengths: At linebacker, Seth Mitchell, Mike Labinjo and Monquiz Wedlow all return after being pulverized for much of 2002. The new defensive scheme by John L. should free up Wedlow to use his speed and allow Mitchell to plug the gaps.

Defensive weaknesses: Speed and strength. There is a lack of team speed and brute strength on the defensive side of the ball. A new scheme will help stop the bleeding, but Spartan fans will still seem some bruising from opponent sweeps and the long ball down the field.

Special teams:
(The Good) Dave Rayner has a strong leg and should have improved accuracy to give the Spartans a decent chance at salvaging something from stalled drives.
(The Bad) Jason Daily can down punts inside the 20 better than any player in the nation.
Problem is, he can't kick it more than 35 yards. (The Ugly) The problem in the return game last season was a lack of speed and poor unit blocking; returners never had a chance past the 20... this should improve, but don't expect any TDs in ‘03.

Breakthrough offensive player - Watch improved WR Ziehl Kavanaght or RB Jaren Hayes steal the thunder on offense this fall. Both are quick, have sound fundamentals, and hold onto the ball. In a time of crisis, the Spartans will likely go to either of these gridders.

Breakthrough defensive player - None; the defense sucks. Okay, maybe Jason Harmon at FS. Harmon can read a quarterback well; with Wedlow dropping back into coverage or helping on occasional blitzes, Harmon should benefit from a few stray balls thrown his way for picks. But MSU will struggle again this year on defense.

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