Here we continue our 2012 position previews. I aim to be occasionally right, barring that I’ll shoot for humor. For your enjoyment, I present the Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Fullbacks, Tight Ends, Offensive Line and Linebackers.
Projected Starters: Johnny Adams(CB), Darqueze Dennard(CB), Isaiah Lewis(S), Jairus Jones(S)
Key Departures: Trenton Robinson(S)
It’s 2009, Marvin McNutt has just caught a slant pass to beat Michigan State on the last play of the game and 75,000 people just threw up in their mouth a little bit. Rick-Six Stanzi has just marched the length of the field and looked excellent doing it in under 2 minutes. Where the hell is MSU’s pass defense? There were implications in the following days, MSU doesn’t have the right players, they don’t have the right scheme, maybe Narduzzi isn’t all that good of a coach, etc.
My how times have changed.
In 2011, the MSU secondary put on it’s big boy pants and had improvements in almost every pass defense related metric.
What the hell? I thought you said they were a lot better.
Well, aside from the passing yardage they were really about the same. So how about an improvement from 20 sacks in 2010 to 45 sacks in 2011? An extra 40 Tackles For Loss from 2010 to 2011? The passing yardage improved so dramatically in 2011 because the blitzes were getting home quicker than John L would go three and out. From 2010 to 2011, the number of pass attempts as a percentage of total offense dropped from 48.3 percent to 44.4 percent. Not only were teams not as successful in throwing the ball, they were throwing it less often as a result.
So what about 2012?
MSU returns three starters in the secondary, Johnny Adams, Darqueze Dennard and Isaiah Lewis. All three had at least one pick-six last year. Something tells me that puts MSU in some pretty elite company in terms of returning secondary talent. Johnny Adams returns for his senior campaign after a brief flirtation with the NFL. He decided to return for 2012 and is a consensus potential first-round draft pick.
Cue the Pietrang5 Highlight Film. Twitter: https://twitter.com/Pietrang5
If I have a single bone to pick with Johnny Adams it’s that he draws penalties for being too aggressive. I’ll follow that up by saying if you want to make an omelet…
Dennard returns as a junior this year. A two-star recruit out of high school he had some pretty tepid offers, like Middle Tennessee State University and Utah State. He was forced into action as a true freshman in 2010 when Chris L. Rucker was suspended for his, ahem, legal issues. The craziest part of all was that he was pretty darned decent. As a sophomore in 2010 he recorded 3 picks, 1 for a TD. More importantly he proved that he has the Dantonio gift of being a corner who plays well in run support while being every bit as good as needed in pass coverage. In 2012, expect him to continue his development as a Chris L. Rucker like corner.
I like the title as much as anything.
Lewis had moments of tremendous athleticism in 2010 while playing more heady football. Lewis’ development curve reminds me a lot of Gholston. In 2010, it was raw athleticism leading the way, in 2011 it was lots of excellent athleticism with responsible play and in 2012 I expect both will take the next step of playing strong with some really heady plays as well.
The Other Guy(Free Safety)
Currently, all of the tea leaves point to Jairus Jones being the guy to fill Trenton Robinson’s shoes at Free Safety. Jones suffered an Achilles tear in Spring Ball: The 2011 Edition, but seems to have the inside track on the starting job. The real challengers to his precarious position are returning safety Kurtis Drummond who played in MSU’s nickel package last fall as the extra DB. Drummond had two picks in a fraction of the snaps that everyone else was on the field(although to be fair I’m sure an unnaturally high percentage of picks happen on 3rd and long). True freshman Demetrious Cox has earned high praise this fall as well. Cox committed to MSU around signing day over A Single Redeemable Offer Good for Any School in the Midwest. Cox is the future, but it looks like the present will be duked out between Jones and Drummond.
The Other Guys
Corner: Fifth year senior Mitchell White will be the first guy up if either Adams or Dennard are injured. White was a starter briefly in 2011 but was replaced as the quality of Dennard’s play improved. Arjen Colquhoun,Trae Waynes and true freshman Ezra Robinson are the future of the position. Should Dennard/Adams get injured it wouldn’t surprise me to see one of the younger guys step in and play some minutes too. Mylan Hicks has finally recovered from whatever chronic injury has been plaguing him so depending on how he shows out he could be in the backup mix as well.
Safety: It’s pretty cut and dry here. Between Cox, Drummond and Jones, one will be the free safety and the other two will be the next guys on the field. RJ Williamson has also shown tremendous potential so far and I probably should have mentioned him above in “The Other Guy” section. True freshman Mark Meyers doesn’t figure to see the field this year given the enormous logjam in front of him at the position. BONUS Wild Ass Guess SECTION! One of the guys who doesn’t make the cut here takes a whack at returning punts or kickoffs. There have been no rumblings as such there’s just so much talent here that the staff will work hard to get it on the field somehow.
The 2011 MSU secondary was a good unit that played great with the help of an improved pass rush. In 2012 the secondary cannot count on the pass rush to help them out as much. The loss of Jerel Worthy will be felt especially in the first couple of weeks. To further complicate matters MSU opens next friday against Boise State home of the three step drop followed by a two yard pass. Fans will easily be able to take the temperature of the secondary with it’s minimum pass rush help and maximum confusion factor on account of the 9000 page Boise State playbook.
The remainder of the year this unit will be top of the class in the Big Ten. If for no other reason than they aren’t going to play any real formidable quarterbacks with the exception of Iowa’s James Vandenberg and mayyyyybe Braxton Miller? After those two the secondary really only needs to be good to play great.