Embed from Getty Images The Michigan State Spartans football team will reconvene Tuesday to start spring drills. After a season that fell well below expectations in East Lansing, the Spartans have more questions than answers.
First and foremost Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio, must find some offensive production to go along with one of the countries stingiest defenses. The Spartans offense was abysmal for long stretches last season.
Finding offensive linemen who can stay healthy and play with a united consistency will go along way in getting MSU quarterback Brian Lewerke back on track. The quarterback himself suffered an right shoulder injury against Penn State. He played through the pain and it showed.
In a very un- Michigan State season the Spartans finished 114th in rushing in the country. 124.8 yards per game. While the Spartans were hurt when starting running back LJ Scott missed most of the season due to injury. What hurt Michigan State most was lack of quality depth at the tailback position.
One thing for fans and media to monitor is in the Red Box Bowl loss to Oregon, Michigan State went to no-huddle, up-tempo offense. It is unclear if that is the direction Dantonio plans to explore more of.
While defense is not usually an issue, Michigan State does have some depth concern. Gone to graduation are defensive tackle Gerald Owens, safety Matt Morrissey, linbackers Byron Bullough and Grayson Miller along with defensive end Dillon Alexander. That is a lot to have to replace.
It is a real head scratcher that Dantonio did not bring in new coaches. But he simple reshuffled existing coaches already on his staff. There are time new coaches and fresh voices are what is needed. This is the single most fascinating part of the Spartans spring practice.
How will player react to the same coaches in a new role? Sometimes it goes bad. Once in a while it works for a short time.
Embed from Getty Images He will wear Lou Whitaker’s No. 1. Josh Harrison has played nearly every position on the baseball field. That is until he tried second base and found a home. Josh Harrison is the kind of veteran the Detroit Tigers need to help teach young players. The former Pittsburgh Pirate was a solid pickup.
A two-time All-Star Harrison is good with a glove and good with a bat. The Tigers brought him into Detroit because Josh Harrison is good in the clubhouse. Something that is critical when losses pile up.
That is something the rebuilding Tigers need. Josh Harrison signed a one year deal with the Tigers for $2 million dollars. He brings experience as well as being a high-energy player and by all accounts is a leader. Something the Tigers coaching staff will lean on for sure.
It should be somewhat of a comfort for Josh that the Tigers signed his former (now current) teammate and double partner Jordy Mercer to a one year contract as well.
The other reason for the Tigers reaching out and bringing the two-time All-Star in is that Detroit perhaps did not like what they saw early in Spring training. Be it depth or player. So there was serious thought into how to improve the team while still allowing young players to try and fail until they get it right.
Being able to plug a player like Josh Harrison into the lineup means that Detroit super utility player Niko Goodrum can remain on the bench and be available to pinch hit, pinch run, come in as a defensive substitution or give Mercer or Harrison a day/night off.
This in turn creates better depth. Another thing it does for Detroit is it gives them a serious trade chip at the MLB trade deadline. It is a good bet the Tigers will flip Harrison for a prospect or two which will further strengthen Detroit’s already flourishing minor leagues.
Josh Harrison has value in Detroit. It is unclear why he sat so long on the open market as a free agent. But Detroit is glad he did.
Embed from Getty Images The Michigan State Spartans have been without Joshua Langford for a few weeks. That was the first blow for a Michigan State team that was struggling with consistency. Now without the services of Nick Ward Michigan State is being tested.
Tom Izzo, is a very good basketball coach. Tom Izzo is not a wizard. There is no magic wand that can be waived to make injuries go away. If that was the case coaches would line up for one.
The Spartans are learning to fight through their limitations. Losing two top players can be crippling to a team. “It’s going to bring our team closer together,” Izzo said. “Whether we’ll have enough, I don’t know. We’ll find out, but I’m not counting us out.”
Depth is critical to the overall health of any team. Even when the depth is a young player who has yet to see major game action. Still in their past two games Michigan State has fought through and won.
That is the good news. They have found players that have been pressed into action and have responded in a short period of time. They have struggled at times but that is to be expected.
Now Tom Izzo and his Spartans will be tested. Sunday in Ann Arbor. Michigan State minus their two stars will face top ten Michigan. It will be a very tall order for Izzo’s bunch. Michigan is very good. Not to mention the game is on the Wolverines home court.
If there is one thing to remember it is this. Never count a Tom Izzo coached team out. No matter the odds, no matter who is playing and who is not. The Spartans will be ready for their in-state rival in a HUGE Big Ten showdown.
Michigan State is more than capable of providing a convincing response to any and all questions fans and media have about the health and depth of their team. Do not count Sparty out. It could be a fatal mistake.