This has been covered a couple times by a couple of different and excellent bloggers today. Not one to be deterred by more educated and intelligent opinions, I plow ahead anyway
Andrew Maxwell, like Kirk Cousins, but better?
Last year in the dark, uneducated corners of the Spartan internet there were rumors of dissention and mutiny. Maxwell was going to replace Kirk Cousins as MSU’s Starting Quarterback! Obviously, this didn’t happen because… well… Mark Dantonio isn’t an idiot?
Here’s what you can expect out of Andrew Maxwell both in Spring and in the Fall. Even if his arm is better, his ability to read a defense and check into the right play will not be as advanced as Cousins was in 2011. So, he’ll be better than 2009 Cousins(if for no other reason than he won’t compete with Keith Nichol until midway through the Big Ten Season) and worse than 2011 Cousins. (I’d be happy to be wrong about this.)
Fine, you want proof?
Here are the first year numbers of starters in the Big Ten from 2007-2011 at the QB position provided they had more than 14 pass attempts per game. Which despite ESPN’s policy of sapping the joy out of things actually makes a lot of sense.
* - Pro-Style Average is comprised of UW, PSU, MSU and Iowa.
So, do I have any idea how Maxwell can do? No, but there be some averages for your comparison shopping.
What of the Tight End situation?
I realize Tight End play isn’t necessarily everyone’s bag. (It’s tough to drop that joke and move into serious talk, so clunky transition goes here.) Late in the 2011 season, Roushar used Linthicum frequently as an H-back to keep defenses off-balance right up to the snap. This helped conceal the intent(pass/run) of the play right up until the snap and was a very important piece of MSU’s late season successful running game. MSU is going to be thin at Tight End for all of 2012, but they will be extremely thin prior to the fall arrival of Evan Jones and Josiah Price. Dion Sims will be back this spring, but he has spent his time at MSU battling injury(human beings aren’t meant to be 6’5, 280 with his speed) and legal issues(computers that say property of DPS, probably doesn’t mean Dion P. Sims.). So while he is extremely talented, he has yet to put together a consistent season on the field. Denzel Drone has moved over as a Spring Time Band-Aid, but he’ll move back to the DL in the fall. He did too much good work late in the season to get moved off of the D-Line permanently.
Be excited if in the Spring Game you see someone doing the Linthicum H-Back works who looks natural at the job. Otherwise, we just see what happens here, won’t we?
ZOMG! Who is Maxwell going to throw to?
I’m probably a bit less concerned about this than your average blogger/serious MSU football fan. This is of course, as big a deal as whether or not Maxwell is any good, but he’s had three years of throwing to Bennie Fowler, two years throwing to Keith Mumphery and Tony Lippett(yes, I know he played corner last year) and a year throwing to Andre Sims and Juwan Caesar(who was hurt in 2011). Then of course MSU brought in an outstanding 2012 receiver class as well as transfer DeAnthony Arnett. Of those folks, Arnett and 2012 early enrollee Kyle Kerrick may make appearances in the Spring Game. Fowler is rumored to be 100 percent for the first time in a while, Lippett looked good as a corner last year. If Arnett is indeed eligible by fall, that could well be your X,Z and Y positions right there. Depth is going to be scary this year because the youth is inexperienced and talented. Regadless the position group is too deep as a whole for Maxwell not to find a group of guys he can throw to by fall. Spring could be bumpy though.
Will our Offensive Line be better?
Nothing can be gleaned from this in Spring Ball that is definitive. The Defense’s major loss, Jerel Worthy, was part of a two man tag team of first round Defensive Line talent in 2011. If MSU’s interior line looks improved in the Spring Game it might be just because they’re not playing Worthy.
That said, we can measure how well the Offensive Line did in pass protection by using their pass attempts per sack statistic which I am proudly making up right now.
I somehow think this statistic would be better measured if it somehow included the number of picks thrown too, but whatever. There’s a whole summer of NO SPORTS to figure that out. The point is for every 26 times MSU dropped back to pass in 2011 they took one sack. I’d be worried that this is simply a measure of how savvy your QB is, but PSU’s number was even better and they didn’t have a person playing Quarterback in 2011 to my knowledge. One could argue that Cousins low YPA numbers might have accounted for this too, but you just shut up with that argument. The pass protection was plenty solid enough and returning four of five starters has me thinking it’ll stay that way.
Obviously, run blocking was the big Bugaboo in 2011. MSU averaged a paltry 3.95 yards per attempt while the traditional rushing powers(Neb, UM, Wisky) were north of 4.62. It’s more of a fall point, but I’d really like to see someone a little physically larger than Fonoti show something at Right Tackle this spring. This run blocking is a huge question for MSU this spring and it is nearly impossible to measure whether or not there’s been any serious improvement using statistics, divination or even film.
Bell, Caper, Hill. In that order. This is an area of little to no complication. That’s great news for MSU. Stay injury-free and things will be happy. A question will be does Caper stay in his third-down back role only while Nick Hill moves into the Edwin Baker spot? Or will Caper chew up most of Baker’s carries?
Not really. Obviously, there are a lot more question marks on Offense than Defense this Spring. As Izzo showed this past fall, sometimes a squad can take what would be devastating hits and sometimes that resets chemistry in a good way. I don’t expect that here, there’s no chemistry reset needed in the football game. In the Spring Game, to measure passing chemistry, don’t worry about whether Maxwell makes his throws, be concerned if you start seeing lots of blown routes or WTF handoffs to the wrong side of the ball. Trickeration in the Spring Game doesn’t count toward the fall since those plays are WAY on tape, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any. Roushax 5 misses it’s proud son and hopes he’ll start returning some phone calls once in a while.