When I started watching football in 1996, I was of the thread that all you needed to be successful in any game was a quarterback. Give me a quarterback that is high and mighty, noble in his reads and I shall deliver you a championship. While this is very occasionally true, more often than not a QB requires some assistance. Apologies to any Northwestern QB reading this, you are sewn of the skin of Satan and never got any help at all. As my knowledge of football changed, I don't want to say progressed, that would imply I know more than I did in 1996 that grew to include WRs, RBs and eventually OL.
Here's why your Left Tackle is one of the most important dudes on the field. Here's why:
As previously discussed in the Assume The Position: Quarterbacks series if that happens to Kirk Cousins, that will spell DOOM for this season.
The Right Tackle position is less important regarding the health of your quarterback, but it is imperative for running the football. Running right is what the big ten does best, isn't it? A good right tackle is like a fullback on steroids. Note: It is not actually a fullback on steroids. A good Right Tackle can John Henry their way down the field felling punier creatures of 230 while swigging a can of red bull.
So finally I come to the point, in the most successful run of MSU football since I started watching, how in the hell are we starting a two-star Redshirt Senior with two starts prior to this year and a Redshirt Freshman at Left and Right Tackle respectively? Did Mark Dantonio forget to recruit guys at this critical position?
Forgot? He didn't forget. Mark Dantonio gets angry about forgetfulness.
Let's take a look at what happened with our OT recruits in the 2007 - 2011 classes.
Jared McGaha - The only OT recruit of the class. Currently starting for the Spartans although we'll see about next week. In pretty much any other situation he'd be a depth chart guy, though due to the thinness of the position right now he's starting. It's hard to get after a guy being asked to play above his ceiling, to say nothing of the fact that he played RG until last year.
John Deyo - A two star kid with offers from CMU, EMU and MSU. He seemed like a kid with boom or bust potential. Obviously things have worked out less than ideally in terms of his development. He has seen the field in a special teams role and occasionally in mop-up duty.
Zach Heuter - A referral from the outgoing UM staff under Carr. Would have been wasted under Rich Rod. A pure Right Tackle if there ever was one. He took a medical DQ earlier this year after spending like 3.5 hours healthy during his three seasons at MSU.
Anthony Woods - NFL body, Special Ed mind. Left MSU after his freshman year due to a combination of grades and disciplinary stuff. Apparently he disappeared into the ether since even the googles cannot determine where or why he left.
David Barrent - Flipped his commitment from Iowa to MSU and seems to be the only logical piece in a mysteriously deep-seated hatred of MSU by Iowa football fans. David Barrent took a medical DQ this spring after dealing with a back thing since he got here. This one hurt. David Barrent was supposed to be our NFL Left Tackle playing where Dan France is this season.
Henry Conway - Rumors have been persistent since Conway came to campus that Adonis chiseled a statue of Henry Conway in his living room. Then he done fractured a vertabrae a couple years back. He saw mop-up time on Friday, but I really doubt he's a starter this year.
Skyler Burkland - Current starter. I'd guess four year starter at RT. He looked the part on Friday, but the part for a Redshirt Freshman is still some fairly frequent mistakes. Look for massive improvement from him this season and beyond.
Michael Dennis - Dennis is/was and may always be a project kid. At 6'7 and 260 he'll either put on the 40-50 lbs needed to be a dominant LT or he won't. If he's gonna see the field much, it'd be next year or the year following.
Fou Fonoti - Was a JC transfer and expected to compete for the starting LT spot. He looked a bit undersized still on Friday night. He's another guy who might enter the conversation as the season progresses, but I wouldn't expect much out of him soon.
So of the 9 offensive tackle recruits of the Dantonio era six were recruited from 2007-2009. One is a starter, three are no longer with the program(two medical DQs), one has a spine that has been cracked open and one despite all that appears to have no shot at seeing the field.
The guys recruited in 2010 and 2011 are Burkland, Dennis and Fonoti. Fonoti could see significant time this year, as I said before Burkland I think will be a four year starter.
The football gods have not been great to the non-OT positions either. From 2007, Arthur Ray struggled with the aftermath of his cancer, Chase Dumphord arrived on campus and was homesick in about 2 days. From the 2008 class Ethan Ruhland has had a difficult time cracking into the two-deeps(he hasn't been able to find a home either, bouncing between center and left guard). Nate Klatt a four star center has been passed by both Blake Treadwell and Travis Jackson. Look at his 2012 future to be at guard. Micajah Reynolds has been bounces between the OL and DL like Carmen Sandiego eludes me yet again.
Bonus Observation Part 2!
Dan France was recruited as a DT but Rivals had indicated his biggest upside might be at OT. This was prior to his arrival at MSU and not something they posted last week. Unfortunately, I don't think this is the situation you wanted that to come to fruition.
Conclusion: MSU's Position Group God of Destruction without question belongs to the OTs specifically for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009. McGaha is in part the starter because he's pretty much the only intact survivor of those three years. Help is on the way with Burkland, France and Fonoti but I don't think it will arrive in time to make a significant positive impact for the 2011 season. The good news is that the recruits of the 2010 class look to be wins across the board and France if he pans out has two more seasons after this one. Even if OT is a train wreck in 2011, it SHOULD improve going forward.
Unless Shiva gets angry again.