Monday, June 20, 2011

Michigan State Spartans 2010 Review

Michigan State Spartans
2010 Record: 11-2 (7-1), Tied 1st Big Ten
2010 Bowl Game: Captial One Bowl, Lost to Alabama 49-7

     If you take away the horrible nightmare loss to Alabama, 2010 could go down as one of the best seasons in recent Spartan history. They lost their head coach to a heart attack, and even that did not slow down the train during the season. Thankfully, Mark Dantonio came back from his heart attack that he suffered at the close of the Michigan State game, and is healthy and strong now. Don Treadwell, the interm coach while Dantonio was away, has now turned himself into a head coach at Northern Illinois. There are still great things happening in East Lansing, but that ass whipping against Alabama is going to leave a mark.
     Kirk Cousins was not perfect last fall,but he was pretty damned good at times. Cousins finished by passing for 2825 yards last fall with 20 TDs and 10 picks. He gave MSU a major new dimension to keep pressure off of a very good and deep rushing attack, as he passed for 217.3 yards per game, while completing a solid 66.9% of his passes last fall. Cousins was a central focal point to ht eoffensive attack, as he averaged 26 pass attempts per game.
     Edwin Baker gave notice last fall that he was ready to step up and become a prime time player in the Big 10 rushing race. Baker finished the season with 1201 yards and 13 TDs, giving the Spartans a major threat coming out of the backfield. His relationship with Cousins in the backfield was purely symbiotic, as each kept defenses from keying in on the other. Baker punished Minnesota for 4 TDs and 179 yards for his best game last season, and he also added 183 yards in the win over Florida Atlantic in Detroit. He was, however, crushed by Alabama in the bowl, having rushed for only 14 yards on 12 carries. Le'Veon Bell stepped up as a quality number two back last fall, having rushed for 605 yards and 8 scores of his own. Bell rushed for 3 scores against Northern Colorado, and added 2 more against Western Michigan, and rushed for 114 yards against Notre Dame.
      Five different Spartans caught 20 passes or more last fall, with two going over 50. Mark Dell was the leader, as he posted 51-788-6 on the season. He was joined in the 50 club by BJ Cunningham, who posted 50-611-9 on the season. They were followed by Keshawn Martin (32-394-1), Charlie Gantt (24-301-3), and Keith Nichol (22-262-1).
     The Spartans were credible against the run last fall, having only given up 121.9 yards rushing per game, but they were susceptible against the pass, having allowed 215.8 yards per game through the air. That is an area that they will try to shore up in the coming season, a season in which MSU could realistically have a shot to compete for a conference crown.
     The Spartans had five defenders that averaged 5 tackles or more per game last fall, led by dynamic senior LB Greg Jones, who finished with 106 tackles on the season (8.15 per game). Jones recorded 14 tackles against Illinois, and added another 11 against Florida Atlantic last fall, and will be greatly missed as he moves on. Eric Gordon finished second with 92 tackles, and moves on as well. They were followed by Marcus Hyde (85), Trenton Robinson (76), and Chris Rucker (64). All but Robinson have moved on. Chris Norman (59 tackles) and Johnny Adams (50) look to move up and take over leadership spots as juniors next fall.
     The Spartans did a very solid job of applying pressure up front last season, specifically against the run, as they had two defenders hit double figures in TFLs. Colin Neely and Jones both finished with 10 for the season, but again, both are gone for 2011. Jerel Worthy got close to doubles, as he finshed with 8 on the season, and will also be taking over a leadership role as a junior next fall, and MSU fans should feel happy about that. The Spartans did struggle at times to get to the QB, as they finished with only 20 sacks as a team last fall, with Worthy leading the team at 4. This pressure up front produced 33 QB hurries, and forced 11 fumbles as well.
      MSU was very solid at times when it came to making bug plays, but were not always consistent across the board. There were somebright spots in the secondary, as four defenders finished with at least 7 passes defended last fall. Hyde and Trent Robinson both led the tam with 8 balls knocked away, while Chris Rucker and Johnny Adams both knocked away 7 balls last fall.  Robinson led the defense with 4 picks on the season.
     Dan conroy was almost automatic as a sophomore last fall at PK. Conroy was incredibly accurate, having nailed 14 of his 15 FG attempts on the season. He also hit on 45 of his 46 PAT tries, making him the top kicker in the conference coming back in 2011. Aaron Bates moved on after last season, but he had a huge season as the punter, having been one of the best in the nation, averaging 45 yards per punt. Bates averaged 4.4 punts per game on the season, and legs like that don't grow on trees. The kick return game was rather pedestrian last fall, so a new angle may need to be taken there. Nobody stood out as having had a solid effort. Keshwan Martin was a standout on punt returns, however, as he averaged 14.25 yards per return, and he even broke one for a score in the 34-24 win over conference winner Wisconsin.
Final Notes
     Some change is coming in 2011 for the Spartans, with a new OC and new faces sure to dot the landscape on defense. That being said, the future looks bright for the Spartans, and Mark Dantonio has built the foundation in East Lansing for long term success. Michigan State threw down the gauntlet last fall, and nobody stands a better shot at competing next fall than the Spartans, who loom large. This program is rising in star power.  

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