On a day which looked and felt more like November rather than late April, the Michigan State Spartans contested their annual “green against white” game, and the white team, no doubt inspired by their Nike “Pro Combat” helmets, led at halftime and got a late touchdown from the arm of quarterback Andrew Maxwell securing a 24-17 win.
The theme of this year’s spring game? Uncertainty. At nearly every offensive skill position other than wide receiver, Michigan State is young and inconsistent and it showed. The defense and punting is solid while field goals are a work in progress. Here’s five things to take away from the final spring practice of the year, and a few other notes from football’s return to East Lansing.
1. There Wasn’t Much To Learn At Quarterback. This was largely a draw due to the inconsistancies of all. Connor Cook took sacks, but made a nice escape for a 40 yard strike to Nick Hill, led an impressive two minute drill for a score before halftime and kept things alive impressively with his feet. That escapability could serve him well, and is the most attractive dynamic of Cook when compared to Andrew Maxwell, who was inaccurate and still spent too much time fumbling around in the pocket, but managed to win the game with a clutch throw to A.J. Troup. Tyler O’Connor made a few too many mistakes and had the roughest day. With positive and negative elements from Maxwell and Cook, not much was learned today. Cook, due to his better footwork, might have a leg up, so to speak.
2. The Same Goes For Running Back. Like the quarterback battle, not much was learned here, either. Jeremy Langford hit a few creases and showed his speed, but most impressive was the pyhsical Riley Bullough, who burst forward for several big gains and hung in there making big plays despite an early fumble. He’s got the size Michigan State likes in the backfield. Nick Thompkins had a fantastic run and showed some burst, and Nick Hill found the end zone for a score showing some speed. It was a mixed bag here, and the Spartans will be looking for someone (perhaps Hill) to grab the job and not let go this fall. Otherwise, they might have to rely on a committee approach.
3. Drops, Again, Were The Biggest Offensive Problem. The Spartans had three of them early in the game, including one in the red zone, and finished with as many as 10 depending on personal interpretation. Be it the fault of the quarterback or not, the wide recievers have to improve their focus and hands. It was a major issue which plagued the team in 2012, and somewhat horrifyingly, it showed up again in the spring game nearly as bad as last season. That had better change before the fall.
4. The Defense Was Impressive. With two defensive touchdowns, it’s easy to see why the group is so highly touted coming into 2013. Not only did they intercept a pass for a score, they scooped up a fumble and took it to the house as well. Denzel Drone had a sack, plenty of quarterback pressure and fllled in well in the running game. Mylan Hicks had a nice play at cornerback, chasing down Bennie Fowler and Shilique Calhoun was tough to contain off the edge as well. This group is deep, talented and ferocious. There shouldn’t be many defensive breakdowns this fall.
5. Who Knows What Will Happen At Kicker. Both Kevin Muma and Kevin Cronin made 30 yard field goals and looked solid in the process. Muma has the advantage as far as kickoffs are concerned, given that has been his primary duty, but can this carry over to making field goals? From all indications, Cronin seems to have had the better spring, but Muma’s leg is strong. Could this be a tag team situation where Cronin is used for shorter field goals and Muma for longer ones? Don’t rule it out.
MVP’s? Aaron Brubridge and DeAnthony Arnett. The sophomore Burbridge had a great game going over 100 yards, making a spectacular catch tipping the ball to himself and staying consistent ability. Arnett had a nice touchdown and a few nice catches, showing flashes of his big play ability. Each will be counted on as the season progresses, and if both can keep up their solid play, the Spartans will have a few downfield threats to complement whomever quarterback they choose.
Roughest Day? Tyler O’Connor. Not much went right for O’Connor, who looked skiddish in the pocket and made mistakes aplenty. His interceptions were the result of rushed, bad throws. There is always potential for O’Connor to develop and shine, but expect the main quarterback battle to be between Maxwell and Cook this fall, and perhaps to a lesser extent, newcomer Damion Terry.
Stat Of The Game: 54 and 36, the amount of rushing yards for each white and green team respectfully. Gone are the days where Michigan State can hand the ball off to Edwin Baker or LeVeon Bell and expect dramatic results. These low rushing numbers are a problem for the Spartans who love to run and set up the pass, and somehow, they’ll have to hope someone emerges in time to consistently take snaps for this fall.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax