Michigan State Offense
Last season, the Michigan State offense was one of the most prolific units in the country. The Spartans were fast, athletic, and balanced. Led by quarterback Drew Stanton, Michigan State averaged 295.5 passing yards per game. On the ground the Spartans were just as productive, averaging 201.8 yards per game rushing. The Spartans' 497.7 total yards per game was good for the fifth-best average in the country. In addition to gaining yards, the Spartans scored often. Michigan State's 33.8 average points per game was the 18th highest scoring average in the nation. The following is a look at the returning starters to the Michigan State offense as well as a few young guys who could become impact players.
Notre Dame fans should remember Drew Stanton from his performance at Notre Dame Stadium in September. Stanton had three touchdown passes as the Spartans spoiled Charlie Weis' home debut as Irish head coach. On the season, Stanton completed 236 of his 554 pass attempts with 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also was the Spartans' fourth leading rusher with 338 yards and four touchdowns.
Stanton is a solid passer who can make all the throws. He has a fantastic career completion percentage of 65.75 percent. Add to mix great running ability, and you have a real talent at quarterback. Stanton will be one of the most experienced and polished quarterbacks that the Irish will face in 2006. He will present a major test to an Irish secondary that looks to improve after an up and down 2005 season. If Notre Dame is going to beat Michigan State in East Lansing next season, controlling Drew Stanton will be the first order of business for the Irish defense.
If Stanton were to go down, redshirt sophomore Brian Hoyer would be the man to take over the reigns of the Michigan State offense. Hoyer played in five games last season, going 15/23 for 167 yards and two touchdowns. Most importantly, Hoyer did not throw an interception. This fact should give Coach John L. Smith some confidence that he has a reliable back-up for Stanton.
With a quarterback like Drew Stanton, there is no doubt that Michigan State is looking to pass first on offense. That being said, the Spartans have a talented group of running backs who will look to capitalize on defenses expecting the Spartans to pass.
The leading rusher for the Spartans in 2005 was freshman Javon Ringer. Ringer led the team in yards (817) and attempts (122). That calculates to a whopping 6.7 average yards per carry. At 5-9 186 pounds, Ringer does not have great size, but his 4.4 speed certainly compensates for a lack of bulk. He showcased his ability to make long runs in the Spartans' victory over Illinois where his run of 59 yards was the teams' longest of the season.
Also look for junior Jehuu Caulcrick in 2006. Caulcrick was the Spartans' second-leading rusher in 2005 gaining 478 yards on 89 attempts for seven touchdowns. A big back with speed, Caulcrick has likened himself to former MSU great TJ Duckett. Caulcrick' power is a great complement to the speed of Ringer.
No MSU running back accounted for more that 30 percent of the teams rushing attempts in 2005. Ringer's team leading 122 attempts were only 26.9 percent of the total. However, Ringer could become the No.1 running back if he takes a step forward after a solid freshman campaign. If not, it appears that Coach Smith is comfortable with the running back-by-committee approach.
Two of Michigan State's top three wide receivers will be gone next season. QB Drew Stanton likes to spread the ball around, so there is ample opportunity for an underclassman to make an impact. Junior Jerramy Scott was the team leader in yards (722) and receptions (49). Scott does not possess great size, but he does have the speed to get into spots where Stanton can get him the ball. Look for Scott to be the No.1 target of Stanton in 2006.
Kerry Reed made an immediate impact for the Spartans in 2005 after transferring from Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. Reed was second on the team with 31 catches, and he led all receivers with five touchdown receptions. With openings in the depth chart, look for Reed to establish himself as the No.2 receiver in 2006.
Terry Love is another MSU receiver with great speed. As a sophomore in 2005, Love had 438 yards on 28 receptions for a team-best 14.1 yards per catch average. The ability to make catches for big gains should provide Love with more opportunities next season.
Like Terry Love in 2005, Irish fans can expect a young Spartan receiver to make an impact in 2006. That player could be Ryan Allison. Allison only had four catches as a true freshman, but he's a great talent. At 6-3 207 pounds, Allison has the size and speed to get downfield and go up for jump balls.
The leading tight end for the Spartans in 2005 was sophomore Kellen Davis. Davis had 15 catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns on the season. Irish fans may remember Davis as one of those touchdown catches came in Spartans' victory over the Notre Dame. Davis has great size at 6-6' 241 pounds.
Also look for redshirt sophomore Dwyane Holmes. In his first season of action in 2005, Holmes only had three catches. However all three were for touchdowns. At 6 feet, Holmes does not have the height of his teammate Davis, but he has shown an obvious ability to make catches in the red zone.
In terms of yards, Davis was only the seventh-leading receiver on the Spartans in 2005. Holmes was 11th. This indicates one of two things: Stanton does not like to throw to his tight ends, or he lacks confidence in their receiving abilities. Either way, opposing defenses are sure to pick up on this statistic in 2006. Until more throws go towards Davis and Holmes, look for increased coverage on receivers and less on tight ends.
The Spartans are going to have some real inexperience at offensive line when they begin the 2006 campaign. Junior OT Mike Gyetvai and Senior OG Kyle Cook are the only returning starters to a group that allowed 24 sacks in 2005. Forced with the graduation of three starters, Coach Smith had better get his new guys ready to play, or quarterback Drew Stanton is going to be looking up at the sky quite often.
As previously stated in Matt Johnson's recruiting article on the Spartans, the last two years of recruiting have not been kind to Michigan State's offensive line. No player taken in 2005 saw the field as a freshman. This may not be such a big deal for teams with great depth at offensive line. However in the case of the 2006 Michigan State Spartans, their big men upfront will be truly green. Look for this to be a weakness exploited by the Spartans' opponents in 2006. Drew Stanton is a solid quarterback, but he will be limited if every decision is hurried by non-existent pass protection.
Next time I will take a look at how the Spartan defensive depth chart could look in 2006.