EAST LANSING — The 2012-2013 season wasn’t great for a Michigan State football team that came into the year with high national expectations. The Spartans began last season ranked No. 13 in the country, per USA Today and the Associated Press, but after a 7-6 campaign, ending with a 17-16 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl victory over TCU, Mark Dantonio’s team had a lot more questions than they had answers at the end of the season.
One of those questions came at the wide receiver position, where a new group of guys failed to fill the shoes of those directly before them. However, with a year of playing experience under the belt, the coaches and receiving corps believe that they are ready to make a splash.
“It’s huge, huge.” Michigan State wide receivers coach Terrence Samuel said about his group gaining a full-season worth of experience. “Even my walk-ons know the offense, so from top to bottom there is much more confidence in this group meaning we can throw more at them and they can adjust.”
With a new starting quarterback at the helm and inexperinced receivers in the starting lineup, it was obvious that the MSU offense would have its bumps, but many didn’t believe it would have the impact it did. Not only did newly promoted starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell lack chemistry with his receivers at times, but when he did get them the ball there was a problem with them catching it.
Bennie Fowler (13) makes a catch during the 2013 annual Green-White spring game. (AP Photo)
But after a season that led to the Big Ten’s third worst scoring offense and a conference low pass efficiency, the Spartans feel the year experience has helped them immensely.
“We have five receivers that got game experience last year, as well as a quarterback that has game experience, and as well as some tight ends who hadn’t had a full year of game experience,” senior wide receiver Bennie Fowler said. “That’s the biggest thing going into this season. We know who’s going to be out there, and we’ve played in a whole game before.”
With experience comes consistency, improved chemistry and confidence, something that this receiving group has been working on with their quarterbacks for the entire off-season.
“We’ve been taking it one day at a time and just gaining that chemistry with the quarterbacks so it can be like clockwork,” junior receiver Tony Lippett said.
During the Spartans media day the receivers seemed more tense and secluded compared to the rest of the team, and it was obvious that they’re ready to prove themselves on the field.
“We are more focused,” second-year Spartan DeAnthony Arnett said. “We are more in tune, we have great timing with the quarterbacks, everything is right. We just have to go out there and make plays.”
According to Maxwell, this group has been preparing for this season since January, and he can see the hunger in his receivers. A hunger to prove that they are better than what they showed last season.
“There’s not a harder working group of guys than those guys,” Maxwell said. “If you picked a day from January to August, and just picked a random day in the afternoon, I would guarantee you that Bennie Fowler and at least three or four other guys would be working on something.
“Those are guys who have a drive, those are guys who are hungry, those are guys who hold themselves to a high standard, and guys who aren’t going to be satisfied with anything less than they know they can accomplish.”
And after a season full of flack and negative press, and now, game experience under their belts, this group of guys are ready to prove to the rest of the Big Ten and the country what they can really do.
“We are humble,” junior receiver Keith Mumphery said. “We turned it up 10 notches. We are working a little harder.”