Ethan Ruhland (#68 above) is certainly in the mix to be the Spartans QB on the offensive line.  Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.

Ethan Ruhland (#68 above) is certainly in the mix to be the Spartans QB on the offensive line. Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.

 

The center position is perhaps the most under appreciated position on any college offense in the nation, to the casual fan that is.  Those that understand and know the game, however, have a different opinion.  It is one of the most critical.

 

The center is the QB of the offensive line.  He calls out blocking schemes, and helps, in a critical way, many quarterbacks with the pre-snap read.  If you are unfamiliar with that term, it simply means that when a QB comes to the line of scrimmage, before he calls out his cadence, he looks at what the defense shows him.  He then makes a “Pre-snap” read about what it looks like they are going to do.  In a nutshell, he prejudges the plan of the defense.

 

If you are a fan of the old NFL films you have seen when a center starts pointing things out before he sets to hike the ball.  The next game you see, watch closely and you will notice it.

 

In a pro-set offense like the one MSU runs, the center is even more critical. Unlike the spread where the QB reads and reacts to what a defense gives him, in a pro-style system an offense tries more to impose their will when passing or rushing.

 

Earlier today Mark Dantonio announced that Nate Klatt, one of the young men in the mix to anchor the Spartans offensive line at center, was out for the spring with a broken foot.  Klatt was a highly touted recruit when he joined the Spartans in the 2009 recruiting class.  Missing the spring will set Klatt back considerably.  It certainly doesn’t mean he has no chance to win the starting the spot in the fall, but it does mean he finds himself squarely behind the eight ball and facing an uphill battle.

 

So how will the center position play out over the spring?  Blake Treadwell was a very effective and talented DT who made the switch this spring.  Head coach Mark Dantonio said when the spring opened, “If he is not in the mix (for a starting spot) he’ll be on the defensive side.”

 

Ideally, others would have stepped up so that Treadwell could go back to the defensive side.  With the injury to Klatt it makes the prospects of that certainly more difficult, but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a glut of talent at this critical position.  The Spartans have three young men right now with the ability and talent.

 

Ethan Ruhland is certainly going to give Treadwell a run for his money.  Ruhland is Mr. Reliable.  He can play all five offensive line spots and because of Spartan injuries and needs over his career, he has become a master of many positions and an expert of none.  That isn’t a slam on Ruhland.  This gregarious and hard working young man, if allowed to stick at one spot, has plenty of ability and God-given talent to acquire and maintain a starter’s roll.  Like the old saying that a rolling stone gathers no moss, every time Ruhland would start to master a spot he had to move.

 

If you want a reason to love this young man here is one.  He has never complained.  He is one of the most team-oriented young men on this team and in the end his ability to play so many spots has made him better.

 

Travis Jackson is a red shirt freshman that is also in the mix.  I would be stunned if he won the job.  Not because he lacks talent, he lacks the size that is needed at this level right now and frankly, needs time to get bigger and stronger.

 

Mark Dantonio’s reservations with young offensive lineman is legendary and don’t read into my Jackson comments as anything other than he needs time.  Jackson will be a good one for the Spartans; I just don’t expect it this season.

 

The most important part of spring is reps.  It is practice time.  Roy Rogers was fond of saying that the best thing for a young horse (one that isn’t trained) is a wet saddle blanket.  For those not familiar with the horse culture (I feel bad for anyone that doesn’t get to enjoy horses), it literally means that the sweat of hard work makes a horse get better.  It is true in anything that a person hopes to get better at.  Spring gives young players and young men at new positions plenty of opportunities for a wet practice jersey.

 

Klatt will miss those precious opportunities, but Treadwell and Ruhland could be the best battle of the spring in the Spartan Nation.  Both young men are multi-talented and both young men are great kids.  As they battle it out, the Spartan Nation can be content knowing whoever wins the spot is more than capable to be the QB of the offensive line.