Spring is in the air and when you smell that fresh spring air, the first thing on all our minds is football. OK, maybe not, but for one weekend in April, the Michigan State football team takes center stage if only for a sneak peek of the upcoming season.
Saturday will mark Mel Tucker’s third official spring game and comes in with some lofty expectations. Last season was underwhelming at best and a disaster in some eyes, failing to make a bowl game for the second time in three years. But as more comes out, there seemed to be a lot of factors that contributed to the 5-7 record.
You can blame injuries, you can blame the coaches, you can blame the construction of the new facility killing the team chemistry, you can blame Mel for clock mismanagement, you can blame the Ann Arbor police department for conveniently wrapping up the investigation after the season so all the suspended players missed the entire back half of the season. The list goes on and on.
But the time for excuses is over.
We need to see major improvements on both sides of the ball or there need to be jobs brought into question. But the first step starts on Saturday, and here are some early things to look for to determine where this program is headed.
1. How many offensive linemen play
At this time last year, the Michigan State football team had five healthy offensive linemen. They even had to bring in defensive linemen as placeholders because the five healthy guys obviously need a break every once in a while.
This attrition really showed up during the season with multiple starting lineups, a lack of chemistry, and an overall dip in production, averaging a pedestrian 3.8 yards per carry.
They seem to be in much better shape this year in terms of depth and experience with 18 offensive linemen listed on the spring roster including three redshirt seniors, two redshirt juniors, and one true junior. This might be the one position group that dictates how the season is between successfully running the ball (most notably on first down) and giving the quarterback a clean pocket.
I’m looking for rotation frequency, who gets the majority of snaps, and how they will handle blitz pickups against this group of talented linebackers.