The Spartans have their best team since the George Perles Rose Bowl, while playing in a better Big Ten.

 

Spartan Nation 2011 Big Ten Football Scouting Report: Michigan State Spartans

Biggest Game:  November 26, 2011, against Northwestern

Predicted record:  10-2 (6-2)

Projected Big Ten Standing: 3rd in the Big Ten Legends Division     

Returning Starters:  12     OFFENSE:  6     DEFENSE:  6       Lettermen return:  50    

Head Coach:  Mark Dantonio 5th Season at MSU Last Season: 11-2   SN Lifetime: 51-36 

Top assistants:  Dan Roushar OC, Pat Narduzzi DC

The Spartans are in new territory.  They enter the 2011 campaign in a new role.  They are the hunted.  I only have one true concern for this team and that is the hunger and drive.  They have had four years of bowl games, a Big Ten title, and played for another.  There are a small handful of key players that I wonder how they will handle the success.

On offense, they will be better than last year.  Outsiders keep talking about the MSU offensive line, but I can tell you in the Duffy Building they believe that this group will be better than last and I agree.  They are more athletic, bigger, faster, and stronger.  The Treadwell/Ruhland battle at center is a wash.  Treadwell would be the starter if the first game was today, but either one will be an upgrade.

The LT/RT battle is interchangeable.  Skyler Schofner is the all world stud redshirt freshman that will win one of the jobs for sure.  Dan France and Fou Fonoti are battling for the other, and both of them are very talented and will do fine.  At RB, the Spartans are actually deeper and they didn’t take a RB in the 2011 class.  WR is obscene with the amount of good players that won’t even see the field.  TE has three NFL players in the rotation with some very talented youngsters behind them hoping to get a rep.  The QB will be a top-15 pick in the NFL draft and you get the hint.  LOADED.  The amazing thing is that the Spartans could lose all 11 starters on offense and still have a top offense.

On defense, the Spartans are stacked on the defensive line with depth and talent with young men who are true freshmen that should get reps and are good enough, who may redshirt.  The linebackers are the most athletic that MSU has had since the sixties as a unit.  Speed, strength, and football hunger rule those young men.  Many outsiders are mentioning the loss of Greg Jones (and they should…he was a great player), but on the inside there is a lot of excitement about Max Bullough who is more of a true MLB.  No disrespect to Jones, but I expect the MLB spot to be better in 2011.

The defensive backfield is a concern, but with a certain NFL draft pick in the 2012 draft in Trenton Robinson, this group has a plethora of good young players.  With a better DL in 2011, the defense will be better as a whole.

Last year’s special team MVP, in my opinion, Dan Conroy, leads the special team’s unit.  Mr. Automatic had a Cinderella-type season and there is no reason to expect less this season.  He may not have as high of a percentage, because I think Dantonio will let him take longer kicks and more of them.  Mike Sadler is an all world red shirt freshman that already has NFL hang time and could be the most driven player on the team. 

The lone concern on this squad is the loss of Alex Shackleton.  I said last year losing him was going to be the biggest loss from last year’s seniors and it will.

Biggest questions are hunger for some of the players.  I want to emphasis that this is not a group that is fat and sassy, but I am concerned about a handful.  Secondly, for this season to be special the front four have to get pressure so Pat Narduzzi does not have to blitz all day.  My last question is the long snapper.  If those three are addressed this season will be memorable.

For the first time in nearly ten years I am saying that their biggest game is NOT the Michigan game.  It will return as #1 next year when Michigan will be better.  For this year I think they head to Evanston on November 26 and a date with Northwestern for what I believe will essentially be a bowl game to decide the winner of the Big Ten Legends division.

September 2 Youngstown State Win

September 10 Florida Atlantic Win

September 17 @Notre Dame Win

September 24 CMU Win

October 1 @Ohio State Win

October 15 Michigan Win

October 22 Wisconsin Win

October 29 @Nebraska Loss

November 5 Minnesota Win

November 12 @Iowa Win

November 19 Indiana Win

November 26 @Northwestern Loss