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.
Projected Starters: Dan France, Jack Allen, Travis Jackson, Chris McDonald and Fou Fonoti
Key Departures: Joel Foreman
In 2011, the much maligned offensive line managed to buy Captain Kirk enough time to get MSU to the Big Ten title game. The offensive line and Cousins teamed up to allow one sack per 27 passing attempts. Not too damn bad for a unit who was starting a first year JUCO Right Tackle and a converted defensive tackle at Left Tackle. So pass protection. Check.
Run blocking was another matter entirely, MSU finished 11th of 12 in the rushing game and struggled between the tackles. I had a theory that Baker’s regression in 2011 was tied to the fact that he would run to where the hole was supposed to be. If the hole didn’t develop for him, he’d just run right up the backs of his offensive linemen. Bell would adjust to where the hole developed and picked up a few extra yards. Beast Mode. So run protection. Needs work.
Despite the loss of four year starter Joel Foreman, you’re going to see a vastly improved offensive line in 2012. Dan France comes back for a second year at the Left Tackle spot but will be pushed hard by Skyler Burkland. Burkland suffered an ankle injury in the Notre Dame game last fall but was already showing flashes at the Right Tackle spot. Joel Foreman will be replaced by
Blake Treadwell Jack Allen. Blake Treadwell has a stress fracture in his right leg and will miss a minimum of six weeks, meanwhile Jack Allen has been coming on strong. Unfortunately, I think Treadwell’s odds of getting Wally Pipp’ed are pretty high here. Travis Jackson is a redshirt sophomore who started 10 games last year and was a plus player on the offensive line at the center position. Chris McDonald has been selected as a pre-season contender for the Outland trophy and his nickname is Magnus. My nickname is nowhere near so cool as that, and neither is yours. Fou Fonoti also had a solid 2011 especially considering last year was his first with the program. This year he’ll take a big step forward too.
Also Fonoti’s hair is heavenly:
An article from the Wall Street Journal talks about the role of experience at the Offensive line position. Specifically, in 2008, eight of the top ten teams returned an Offensive Line that had more than 65 starts. This group from MSU has 48 starts between the lot of them. The best news. Two of those guys(France and Jackson) will be back next year. This should be the “Just For Men” offensive line, enough gray hair to know what it’s doing, but young enough to do it anyway.
The Other Guys
Henry Conway has had a strange story at Michigan State. He suffered a cracked vertebrae a couple years ago and so despite being a mountain of a man hasn’t really seen the field. Best of luck to him of course. The two-deeps at all five spots are pretty respectable. Left tackle(France/Burkland) and left guard(Allen/Treadwell) could turn into straight up position battles throughout the season. Ruhland, Klatt and Conway are all fine backups at the C, RG and RT positions respectively. After the two-deeps, you get into walk-ons and true freshman. I doubt either group sees anything outside of mop-up time.
In 2012, the Offensive line will move from being a patchwork of who’s around and can stop Kirk Cousins from getting killed to a force who can clear some lanes for Bell, Caper and Hill. The four returning starters should aid Maxwell in making his transition to the Captain’s chair and get Bell some room to breathe. Expect McDonald and Jackson to contend for All Big Ten honors and don’t rule out Fonoti either. If MSU can get back to Pound Green Pound, you can probably thank some of these gents for that ability.