2009 Michigan State Spartans Football Preview
2008 Record: (9-4, 6-2)
2008 Bowl: Capital One Bowl vs. Georgia (L 12-24)
Coach: Mark Dantonio (16-10 at Michigan State, 34-27 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Don Treadwell
Defensive Coordinator: Pat Narduzzi
Other Key Returnees: OT Rocco Cironi, WR B.J. Cunningham, LB Adam Decker, G Joel Foreman, TE Charlie Gantt, LB Eric Gordon, C Joel Nitchman, K Brett Swenson, CB Ross Weaver, WR Blair White, DT Oren Wilson
Key Losses: QB Brian Hoyer, DT Justin Kershaw, DE Brandon Long, G Roland Martin, OT Jesse Miller, RB Javon Ringer, S Otis Wiley
In Coach Mark Dantonio’s first year at Michigan State, the Spartans went 7-6. Coach Dantonio followed it up last year with a 9-4 record and a trip to the Capital One Bowl. That has the green and white faithful excited about the future. The future might have to wait since the Spartans have to replace their superstar running back and their steady quarterback.
Michigan State's Strengths:
The Spartans did not have the greatest defense in the Big Ten, but with eight starters returning, the unit could be even better. The strength is in the middle with linebackers Greg Jones, Adam Decker and Eric Gordon. Jones led the team with 127 tackles and that was just as a sophomore. Now that he is an upperclassman, he is ready to emerge as the leader of a talented defense. The absence of tackle Justin Kershaw and end Brandon Long is a cause for concern. The Spartans only tallied two sacks per game a year ago and Long was an important part of that. However, Trevor Anderson is back for his senior campaign and he led the squad with eight sacks. If the Spartans can find another pass rusher to compliment Anderson, the defense will be in great shape.
Michigan State's Weaknesses:
The MSU offense last season was pretty much handing the ball to running back Javon Ringer and letting him do his thing. On the year Ringer tallied an incredible 390 carries. Now he is gone and the Spartans will have to diversify their offense. Senior A.J. Jimmerson is the likely candidate to replace Ringer, but Andre Anderson had a quality freshman campaign in 2008 and could be the go-to-guy in 2009. Making matters worse for the offense is the fact that Brian Hoyer has also run out of eligibility. Hoyer did not have a great senior season and the numbers were nothing special, but he was a leader. Now there is a quarterback controversy in East Lansing as Kirk Cousins battles it out with Keith Nichol. Cousins has more experience in the system, but Nichol was a super recruit who committed to MSU originally before opting to head to Oklahoma instead. Now he is back with the Spartans and has to pick up the offense quickly if he wants to unseat Cousins.
The Bottom Line for the Spartans:
No matter who the quarterback ends up being, there are plenty of young playmakers to pass the ball to. The receivers were young and inconsistent last year, but that excuse will not work anymore and players like Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham have to be more consistent. With the likelihood that the team will be forced to spend less time on the ground, especially without linemen Roland Martin and Jesse Miller, the quarterbacks and the receivers have to play better if the Spartans want to be in the mix for a Big Ten title.
By Joel Welser
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