We’ve covered offense, defense, and there’s no chance I’m talking about special teams. All I ask is for competence. That’s it. That does seem like it should be some monumental task but last year was mindblowingly mediocre for Michigan State football. Just. Kick. The. Football.
But I digress, here’s what I want to see out of the coaching staff this year.
Offensive coaching staff
This might be a make-or-break year for Jay Johnson. He needs to figure out how to run an offense without calling Kenneth Walker III’s number to bail him out and having Payton Thorne throw 50/50 balls is not an offensive strategy. Sure, they’re fun and having Jayden Reed and Keon Coleman helps tremendously, but it shouldn’t be your only source for big plays.
I do think that having another year of Chris Kapilovic’s offensive line recruits should help. Michigan State’s 2021 offensive line class averaged about 295 pounds, which coming out of high school isn’t bad. The Spartans’ 2022 class averaged about eight pounds heavier per recruit and now that both classes have gone through the strength and nutrition programs, they should be able to add depth to a position with a lot of returning starters.
There’s no question that the addition of UConn transfer Nathan Carter will be a significant upgrade at the running back position, which still has great depth with Jalen Berger, Jordon Simmons, and Jaren Mangham. I think it’s important for the coaches to identify the hot hand early and ride them instead of the committee method which has a tendency to interrupt flow and timing.
The ability to establish the run early will hopefully open up the passing game, which largely looked bad last year but it’s also not easy when every drive includes a second-and-9 or longer because of a first down run stuff.
Then, with Thorne looking uncomfortable with short under throws, it turns into a third-and-9 or longer and it’s just a recipe for disaster as evident by their middling 38.8 percent third down conversion. I couldn’t find a stat on the amount of three-and-outs by MSU, but the fact that they had the least amount of third downs mixed with finishing second-to-last in the Big Ten in time of possession leads me to believe this team went three and out a lot and that’s because of some questionable play-calling and lack of execution, which falls mostly on the coaches.
Look, I’m not asking for 45 points a game, but the average in FBS was 30 per game. Can the Spartans muster six more points in 60 minutes a game? It could be the difference in 8-4 and 9-3.