Roushar's relationship with Dantonio helps him understand his boss and what he wants.  Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.

Roushar's relationship with Dantonio helps him understand his boss and what he wants. Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.

 

Dan Roushar Article on the Offense

            Stepping into the offensive coordinator role vacated by the departure of Don Treadwell, Dan Roushar holds the reins to a very potent Spartan offense. Though the overall philosophy of the offense will remain the same, Roushar will offer a slightly different style of coaching than Treadwell. As he has stated time and time again, he favors throwing the ball down the field, while maintaining balance with the running game. Coach Roushar certainly has the players to achieve success in his offense.

            This is Coach Roushar’s first time at the helm of an offense. In his twenty-seven year coaching career, he has held the offensive coordinator role at a number of other schools. Yet, as Roushar says, being a coordinator at Michigan State is different: “I’ve been the offensive coordinator at a number of schools, including University of Illinois. At Michigan State, this has been by far the most visible because of the number of successes we’ve had. I think that’s a really good thing.” While many stress the fact that he has never called plays at MSU, Coach Roushar has had the experience: “I’ve done it [called plays] with every position I’ve held other than when I’ve been with Mark. I’m excited about getting back to doing it.”

            Time and time again, Roushar has been asked how he will be different than the former offensive coordinator Treadwell. “I don’t know how different I’m going to be than Coach Treadwell… I’m going to be a different person than Donny, there’s no question about that. He did a phenomenal job. I’m going to coach the way I coach. I hope that our offense takes my personality.” What is Roushar’s personality, you ask? Well, it starts with balance, particularly on third and medium situations. And though he may like to throw the ball downfield a bit more (especially on early downs) than Treadwell, he is still very much interested in the running game. As Roushar said earlier in spring: “We’re going to run the football, so play action has become more prevalent… We would like to call those more often…. I like to throw the ball down the field. I’ve always liked the vertical passing game, and yet that’s part of who we were. Does it become more? I think those questions get answered as we go through spring and fall camp.”

Another key part of Roushar’s philosophy is making the offense “motion oriented”, or forcing opposing defenses to adjust. He also wants opposing defenses to “have to worry about we present ourselves”. Still, Roushar will be running basically the same offense that Treadwell did last year: “We’re going to make a few adjustments here and there, but I think we’ve got a system in place that we’ve liked: our kids know it, our staff knows it. I don’t see us getting too far away from what we’ve been.”

With senior captain and three year returning starter Kirk Cousins at quarterback, Roushar’s job is definitely easier. An established player and leader, Cousins was an integral part of Michigan State’s spectacular 11-2 season last year. Racking up 2,825 yards, 20 touchdowns, and a 66.9% completion percentage on the year, Cousins staved off his pre-season doubters. Increased confidence and great stats have helped to establish Cousins as one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Luckily for Roushar, Cousins is recovering from tendonitis that plagued him last season. Though still not 100%, Cousins is certainly improving in health. The future lies one spot behind Cousins on the depth chart in sophomore Andrew Maxwell. “It’s a big spring for him [Andrew Maxwell] to continue to mature and grow. His leadership skills should continue to get stronger. His decision making should continue to improve.” As Maxwell “steals” a few reps from the experienced Cousins, Roushar affirms that the coaching staff has to: “Look at Kirk objectively every day. Keeping in mind we want to see improvement, at the same time we want to see him stay healthy and build on what he’s done.” Cousins has certainly done much for the Green and White, and hopefully will continue to lead the Spartans in the right direction towards another Big Ten Championship.

Coach Roushar is lucky to have a deep, deep backfield to work with. Juniors Edwin Baker and Larry Caper, sophomore LeVeon Bell, and freshman Nick Hill form one of the most potent backfields in the Big Ten. Baker, a 1,000 yard rusher, tops the list after an outstanding season in 2010. Nevertheless, the competition is “high”, as Caper and Bell are both able backs who can give the Spartans awe-inspiring performances when called upon. As Roushar correctly affirmed: “We’ve got established guys who have done really well.” Roushar, though excited about the three backs who saw time last year, wants to see Hill. “I’m excited about Nick Hill…I’m anxious to watch that guy run behind us.” No matter how good your running backs are, as Roushar says: “At the end of the day, you still have to block them. That’s the bottom line.”

The offensive line is filled with question marks, unlike most of the positions on offense. Despite the lack of knowledge on who will be starting, there is a plentiful amount of young players able to step in to the five roles on the offensive line. The biggest question mark is at center, where Ethan Ruhland, Blake Treadwell, and Nate Klatt are competing. As of right now, Ruhland is in the lead in the chase for the starting role. Ruhland is the only one of the three who has experience at the position. The only thing holding the other two back is learning all the ins and outs of the position. Still, the position’s starter probably will not be announced for some time, as Treadwell is improving every day. Youngster (red-shirt freshman) Skyler Schofner has the right tackle spot all but clinched: as long as he does not get injured he will hold the starting job. At right guard, Chris McDonald has been the model of consistency this spring, earning praise from Dantonio and Roushar. The left guard position will be held by Joel Foreman once he returns from injury. At left tackle, Jared McGaha and Dan France are competing. Add in the “very athletic” junior college transfer Fou Fonoti into the mix and you have a fierce position battle. The tackle spot is “wide open” as Roushar said. “I think the pieces are there…The key will be getting the right guys in the right spots.”

“In our offense the tight end position is a strong need.” As many have stated, the tight end spot is a deep one for the Spartans. With Celek returning from injury, Lithicum in his last season, and the 270 pound Dion Sims in the mix, Roushar has every right to be excited about the tight end position. Tight ends have to be versatile, as Roushar said. Also, with one of the deepest receiver cores in the Big Ten, Roushar will certainly have the weapons to make a high-powered offense work. Keyshawn Martin, B.J. Cunningham, Keith Nichol, and Bennie Fowler highlight a dynamic bunch of wide receivers who will be lighting up the field come fall.

At the offensive coordinator position, Roushar has a seemingly unlimited number of weapons to work with. The key to his success will be how he uses them. He has to ensure that each player gets enough reps to stay happy while making the offense as productive as possible. Roushar will have a big part in that, as he will be working very closely with the whole offensive staff especially in game planning. Living up to former coordinator Treadwell’s reputation will be tough. Yet, with the depth and amount of talent that Roushar has to work with, it is easy to believe that the Spartan offense will be a force to be reckoned when fall finally arrives.