It’s fall of 2007, Fall Out Boy was popular, The Office was still funny and Mark Dantonio brings his cliché-driven coachspeak to the mike in his inaugural season. MANBALL wasn’t invented yet as a term but come hell or highwater Mark Dantonio was bringing it back to East Lansing. The temptation to drop some App State LOLZ right here is so completely inviting, but I’ll resist. Barely.
Oh yes, this crap was popular five short years ago.
MSU had it’s QB of the future in Brian Hoyer and he was taking over the reins of the new MSU Offense. He had played intermittently in the 2006 John LOLOLOLOLOLOL going away season and after John L was shitcanned got to play two full games. In those games MSU took the leash off and let Hoyer throw at will. In fact Smith said after one of the games:"We ran the ball 15 times," Smith said, "and it was 15 times too many. We probably should have thrown it another 15 times and maybe we would have gotten the win." This just in: John L can be a dick sometimes. He and Arkansas deserve each other. Long story long, Hoyer’s experience was intermittent combined with two games none of the MSU staff gave a rip and two shits about.
MSU also returned two of the better running backs in the Big Ten in Ringer and Caulcrick. An extremely athletic mismatch of a tight end in Kellen Freeman-Davis and a bunch of unproven receivers. In 2006, MSU lost Matt Trannon(Who ALSO PLAYED BASKETBALL!), Kerry Reed and Jerramy Scott to graduation. Despite how completely shittastic John L was at recruiting Offensive Linemen, MSU returned a pretty average to maybe slightly above average offensive line in 2007.
Sound familiar? It should.
Obviously the point of all this is that while MSU is returning a serious lack of experience at the skill positions the MSU staff has been here before. Not so very long ago even. Maxwell is obviously less experienced than Hoyer was, but, both QBs were renowned for their accuracy coming out of high school. The offensive line is shaping up to be the best since 2007 with the 60 some starts between returning players. Bell is every bit as good and better than Caulcrick was, Caper and Hill will combine to be a reasonable facsimile of Ringer’s production. If you trade Bell for Ringer in terms of WOW factor and accept CaperHillr for Caulcrick as the steady change of pace back, the rushing attack could be just as effective. Bennie Fowler has already been drawing comparisons to Devin Thomas. Dion Sims is another freakishly athletic Tight End in the mold of KFD. KFD was a bit trimmer and lithe but watching linebackers try to tackle Sims is like watching nine year olds trying to tackle a full grown man.
So How Did MSU Do in 2007?
MSU finished 2nd in the Big Ten and 29th nationally in total scoring offense at 33.1 ppg. They finished 3rd in the conference in rushing offense and 25th nationally. Coincidentally or maybe not so much, this was the only year of the Dantonio era where MSU was MORE likely to run on 3rd and 3 or less than pass. Passing Offense: MSU finished sixth in the conference and 62nd overall, so that stung a bit. Turnover margin was 2 on 18 Offensive turnovers in 2007 and 7 on 18 Offensive turnovers in 2011. So if MSU can turn the ball over 18 times or less in 2012, they’ll do just fine at negating the impact of turnover margin.
MSU managed to make do in 2007 with plays designed to take advantage of their strengths. Devin Thomas was plenty fast and they got him rushing yards by running 27 end arounds that averaged 6.56 per carry. Jeez even KFD had 6 end arounds that year. You could set an egg timer on the 50 yard playaction bomb on 1st and 10 of the third drive. The offense was simple, use the run to open up the pass and I’ll bet you one hamburger that’s how MSU opens on Friday night.
For all the fretting about how the Offense will come together in 2012, this isn’t new territory for MSU. They already did this back in 2007 and with a much less impressive defense backing up the Offense. If MSU can recreate it’s success in 2007(33.1 ppg most of the Dantonio era) fans won’t have to hope for a very good season in 2012, they’ll be smelling the roses and enjoying life.