Michigan State Preview

Notre Dame looks to rebound against Drew Stanton and his Spartan teammates.

#12 Notre Dame vs. Michigan State
Fighting Irish   Spartans
Saturday, September 16
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI.
8:00 EST

Michigan State On Offense:

Spartan Offense '06 Rank Per Game ND Defense '06 Rank Per Game
Rushing Offense #5 258.00 Rushing Defense #68 132.33
Pass Offense #30 248.33 Pass Defense #68 195.00
Pass Eff. Offense #9 167.78 Pass Eff. Defense #68 123.38
Total Offense #3 506.33 Total Defense #63 327.33
Scoring Offense #7 39.0 Scoring Defense #80 24.67

Michigan State is off to a solid start in 2006. As expected, the Michigan State  "spread offense" offense is shredding defenses and scoring points. The Spartans opened up with a couple easy games against Idaho and Eastern Michigan, but they stepped up last weekend with a strong performance against Pittsburgh. 

Running John L. Smith's offense for the Spartans is Heisman candidate Drew Stanton. Irish fans should be very familiar with Stanton by now, thankfully this will be the last year he faces an Irish defense. He's perfect for the offense because he can do so many things physically, but he also makes very sound decisions which makes the spread offense deadly. Last season the Michigan State offense produced nearly 500 yards per game and they are at that mark once again this year.   

When people think of the spread offense they immediately think of a passing offense that throws the ball 50 times per game. Michigan State will spread the defense out. It will keep the fullback and the tight end on the sideline for much of the game, but the Spartan offense puts up huge rushing numbers. Last season they rushed for 200 yards per game and this season they are averaging 258 yards per contest.  Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick are very productive runners and Stanton is always a threat to carry the ball.  

Michigan State doesn't have any household names at receiver, but the group is solid and they are experienced.  Matt Trannon, Jerramy Scott, and Kerry Reed aren't spectacular but Stanton generally finds the open man. Kellen Davis is the tight end, but he isn't used often.

The question mark for the offense heading into the season was the fact that they had to replace three experienced starters on the offensive line. At least early in the season this doesn't seem to be a problem for the Spartans. Mike Gyetvai, Kenny Shane, Kyle Cook, Roland Martin and Jesse Miller have done an outstanding job making things happen up front.

Key match-ups:  Drew Stanton against the Irish secondary. Last weekend the Irish secondary showed that they are going to have the same coverage issues as they did last year.  

Anticipated Depth Chart. Returning starter = +.

  +Drew Stanton 5th 56-82- 677 6/2 68.3
  Brian Hoyer So. 4-4-33 1/0 100.0

Drew Stanton (6-3, 230 pounds) was tenth in the country last season in passing efficiency and he's doing just as well this season. Stanton is the perfect quarterback for John L. Smith's offense. He's an accurate passer and he's a dangerous runner. More importantly, he's a smart football player that understands this offense. When he decides to run, it generally kills the defense (30 attempts - 198 yards). If he gets into a rhythm and starts clicking, the Michigan State offense is nearly impossible to stop. Stanton was healthy all of last season, but is the past he has been susceptible to injury because he took too many big hits while running the ball. 

Brian Hoyer (6-2, 210 pounds) would get the call if Stanton did go down. Hoyer doesn't have much experience and he certainly can't replace Stanton, but this is his second season in East Lansing so he is more capable that he was last season. 

  RB Hgt/Wgt Rushes-Yards
  +Javon Ringer So. 5-9/198 46 - 356, 1 TDs
  Jehuu Caulcrick Jr. 6-0/260 29 - 114, 3 TD
  A.J. Jimmerson R-Fr. 5-10/205 13 - 89,  0TD

Notre Dame has to worry about the Spartan rushing attack as much as they need to be concerned about Stanton throwing the ball. Michigan State likes to rotate their running backs, but Ringer and Stanton are the two that are doing most of the damage this season.

Javon Ringer (7.7 yards per attempt) led the Spartans in rushing last season. with 817 yards on 122 carries. He is a hard-driving runner that continually moves forward. He he has pretty good speed, so he gets into the defensive backfield rather quickly. Ringer is a threat to catch the ball (four receptions for 43 yards).

Caulcrick (3.9 yards per attempt) isn't having the productivity that he had in the past, but he is very capable. He is a big back that seems to really put the hammer down when he hits the line. 

A.J. Jimmerson (5-10, 205) is more of the third down back, but Michigan State will use him on any down. He's a solid player that can hurt the defense to the outside. 

  WR Hgt/Wgt Stats
  +Matt Trannon Sr. 6-6/235 19 rcpt/190 yds/ 2TDs
  +Jerramy Scott Sr.. 5-10/186 10 rcpts/147 yds/0 TDs
  Kerry Reed Sr.    6-2/198 16 rcpts/208 yds/2 TD
  Terry Love Jr. 5-10/166  2 rcpts/53 yds/0 TD
  T.J. Williams Fr. 6-3/184  2 rcpts/16 yds/1 TD

This is a very experienced, solid group of players, and a group that can really hurt the Irish. Notre Dame will likely see most of these guys since MSU will likely use three and four wide receivers on Saturday. None of these players are spectacular, but they understand the offense and they will catch the ball. 

Matt Trannon is the guy that gets his number called most often. He's a tall rangy receiver that has decent speed. he killed the Irish last season with a long touchdown reception. Trannon has two touchdown catch against the Irish last season with 136 receiving yards. In 2005 he was second on the team in receptions and receiving yards. 

Kerry Reed has really stepped up the season. reed wasn't expected to press Jerramy Scott for the second receiver, but he has been very impressive through three game. Reed is a player that will cause Notre Dame problems. 

Jerramy Scott might be the most dangerous athlete in this group. This is the guy you don't want to lose in the defensive backfield. He'll make the big play and stress the defense. He does everything very well. Scott led the Spartans in receiving last season. He has 117 career catches.

Terry Love  is most likely the first guy off the bench, but since John L. Smith likes using four wide receivers, Notre Dame will likely see Love often. Love played with Notre Dame's Sergio Brown at Proviso East high school. 

Junior college transfer Devin Thomas (6-2, 217 pounds) and freshman T.J. Williams (6-3, 184 pounds) will also rotate into the line-up for Michigan State.

  TE Hgt/Wgt Stats
  +Kellen Davis Jr. 6-6/253 3 - 26, 1TD
  Dwayne Holmes So. 6-5/277 - -, 0TD
  Eric Andino Jr. 6-4/233 - -, 0TD

Kellen Davis is a tremendous athlete and he's probably the perfect tight end for the spread offense... if there is such a thing. The tight end isn't used that often, but Davis can be a threat when he's in the game. Davis caught an early touchdown against the Irish last season. 

Dwayne Holmes and Eric Andino are former defensive players that they have brought over to offense. Neither should be a factor in this. 

  Offensive Line Hgt/Wgt Experience
  +LT Mike Gyetvai Jr. 6-7/307 14 Starts
  LG Kenny Shane R-Jr. 6-5/312 3 starts
  +C Kyle Cook Sr. 6-3/295 28 Starts
  RG Roland Martin R-So. 6-5/325 3 Starts
  RT Jesse Miller So. 6-6/306 3 Starts

Michigan State lost three very good offensive lineman from last year's squad, but the new unit is playing very well. What was expected to be a weakness for the Spartans has actually been a strength, 

Mike Gyetvai started at right tackle last season and now moves over to protect Drew Stanton's backside. 

Kyle Cook is a solid player and he's probably the best of the front five on offense. 

Roland Martin is a very athletic young player that the Spartan coaches have been raving about. Martin is a Chicago product that was very highly rated coming out of high school. Martin did rotate in at times last season, so he does have some experience. 

Kenny Shane and Jesse Miller are the other new players up front.

Michigan State On Defense:

Spartan Defense '06 Rank Per Game ND Offense '06 Rank Per Game
Rushing Defense #22 78.67 Rushing Offense #84 84.00
Pass Defense #85 220.67 Pass Offense #28 258.00
Pass Eff. Defense #54 119.35 Pass Eff. Offense #68 123.38
Total Defense #49 299.33 Total Offense #68 342.00
Scoring Defense #50 20.0 Scoring Offense #60 25.33

Michigan State certainly hasn't been known for their defense, and despite returning a number of very experienced players from last season, this defense doesn't look much different from the porous unit that took the field for the Spartans in 2005. MSU plays a "4-2-5", but it isn't much different than a "4-3". 

The defensive front is very thin in terms of experince and it really lacks anyone who makes a lot of plays. Clifton Ryan is probably the best of the bunch. He is good, but he has been a career defensive end. Ogemdi Nwagbuo is a junior college transfer that will play the other defensive tackle spot. Justin Kershaw and Ervin Baldwin will try to stop the Irish on the corner.

Linebackers Kaleb Thornhill and David Herron are two very active players with a ton of experience. The defensive backs are very experienced as well, but they really struggle to make plays. SirDarean Adams plays the bandit position which isn't much different than the apache linebacker that Notre Dame used last season. 

Greg Cooper, Demond Williams, Otis Wiley and Nehemiah Warrick will be the group that will attempt to shut down the Irish offense. Less experienced defensive backfields have been able to shut down the Irish passing game, so this unit may give Notre Dame fits. 

Key match-ups:  Notre Dame's rushing offense has struggled mightily this season, so watch the group upfront. 

Anticipated Depth Chart. Returning starter = +

  Defensive Line Hgt/Wgt Stats
  DE Justin Kershaw So. 6-4/254  5 tckls/0 sacks
  +DT Clifton Ryan Sr. 6-2/302 10 tckls/1 sack
  DT Ogemdi Nwagbuo  Jr. 6-4/297  3 tckls/ 0 sacks
  DE Ervin Baldwin Jr. 6-2/252  7 tckls/ 0 sacks

There are a lot of names that may make it onto the field this weekend as the Spartans have been trying to find the right combination. Like the offensive line, there are three new faces along the defensive line.

Clifton Ryan is the lone returning starter from a shaky 2005, but he's moved inside this year. He has a lot of game experience, but it will be interesting to see how he makes the transition to the interior. He didn't apply a lot of pressure to the quarterback as a defensive end (three sacks), so I'm not sure he will be able to from the inside.

The Michigan State coaches have been very happy with junior college transfer, Ogemdi Nwagbuo. He's a big. strong kid that isdifficult to move off his spot. the downside is that he doesn't make a ton of plays.  

Justin Kershaw has played spot in the past, but he really hasn't played any meaningful minutes. Ervin Baldwin wasn't expect to start, but he'll be opposite of Kershaw.

Sophomore Brandon Long (6-4, 244 pound), senior David Stanton (6-3, 290 pound), junior Nick Smith (6-6, 280) and junior Jonal Saint-Dic (6-1, 260) 

  Linebackers Hgt/Wgt Stats
  +Mike Kaleb Thornhill Jr. 6-1/239 20 starts/ 12 tckls
  +Will David Herron Jr. 6-1/245 27 Starts/ 13 tckls

There are only two linebackers, but they are two solid linebackers. Kaleb Thornhill is in his second straight season as a starter. He was third on the team in tackles last season and he's on target to do the same this year. The downside for Thornhill is that he doesn't make a ton of plays in the backfield.  

David Herron is the most experienced player on the defense and he is probably the best player as well. Herron is always around the ball, but like Thornhill he doesn't make a lot of plays in the backfield. 

  Defensive Backs Hgt/Wgt Experience
  +CB Greg Cooper Sr. 5-11/186 26 Starts/ 0 INT
  +CB Demond Williams Sr. 5-9/174 14 Starts/ 1 INT
  FS Otis Wiley So. 6-2/209 3 Starts/ 0 INT
  SS Nehemiah Warrick Jr. 6-1/203 3 starts/ 0 INT
  +Bandit SirDarean Adams Jr. 6-0/2430 14 Starts/1 INT

Although SirDarean is technically a defensive back, he's as much a linebacker as he's used around the line of scrimmage quite often. Adams is the player that picked off a Brady Quinn last season and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown.

Greg Cooper is another player that is making a position change on defense. Almost all of Cooper's playing time in the past came at the free safety position. He really hasn't been tested thus far, we'll see if he can shut down the Irish receivers.

Demond Williams really struggled last season, and he's back for more this year.  

Otis Wiley and Nehemiah Warrick are the two new additions to the Spartan secondary.


Final Thought - Notre Dame was embarrassed last week. The character of the team will show in this Saturday. Last week they did not appear to be mentally prepared for the game.

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