Michigan State will be entering their 2012 season with high expectations. The Spartans have performed greater in two seasons than they have in decades. With the annual MSU spring game coming up soon, all fans will be able to get a glimpse of what’s to come this August.
There are many questions and concerns surrounding this football program right now, and hopefully the spring game will ease the minds of the Spartan faithful.
Here are the most critical parts of the spring game the fans will really need to watch for on the 28th of April.
Spartan fans will be able to review the players filling the void for multiple offensive positions. The ground attack seems to be stable with the returning offensive linemen and running back personnel, but the quarterback and wide receiver positions are up for grabs, along with some tight end spots.
The battle between Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook for the starting quarterback position seems to be heating up throughout spring practices. This should create quite an exciting battle for the green vs. white game on the 28th.
Since Maxwell has been in the program long enough to learn the system thoroughly, he would seem to be the most prepared quarterback for the 2012 season.
There is depth at wide receiver. Tony Lippett, Bennie Fowler, Keith Mumphery and DeAnthony Arnett seem to have the most experience of all the receivers. All of them should get plenty of action for the spring game, and hopefully there will be some big standouts after it’s all over.
The approval for Arnett's transfer is still undecided. If it were to be passed, he should be an immediate impact for Michigan State.
Dion Sims will be the leading tight end returning for the Spartans. He had a few touchdowns on his resume with solid game experience until injuring his wrist. Evan Jones and Josiah Price will be incoming freshmen getting some action in the spring game as well.
As mentioned before, the offensive line should be stable this coming season. Most of the men return for another year, and each position is packed with talented backups.
Skyler Burkland will be battling for a starting spot after suffering a season-ending injury last year as well as Blake Treadwell.
They will be competing with the likes of Fou Fonoti, Dan France, Travis Jackson and Henry Conway who all have shined already in spring practices.
With players becoming healthier and stronger, this offensive line will be interesting to see on the 28th of April.
Michigan State has been mostly known for being a run-first team. They have produced some of the greatest running backs around, and the set of players they have now should not disappoint.
Last season the running game was not very effective due to very few veterans on the offensive line. Now that the linemen have more experience, expect the running backs to carry the ball more often.
LeVeon Bell had an excellent season last year with carries split between Edwin Baker and Larry Caper. Baker declaring early to the NFL will give Bell the bulk of the carries this coming season. Bell may have the nod, but the players below him could easily change that.
Caper is due for some playing time along with fellow running backs Nick Hill and Jeremy Langford. All of these players will be fun to watch when the spring game begins.
The whole defense will be something to watch this spring. After ranking in the top 20 in seven statistical categories and being the top defense in the Big Ten, this group is nothing but dominant. A majority of the defense returns this season, but there are some key spots that need replacing.
The most critical area that needs to be addressed is the defensive tackle position. Jerel Worthy who recently started at this position has declared himself to the NFL after his junior year, leaving behind a great three-season legacy.
Even though he was by far the best defensive player on the inside, he had many players under him waiting to get a shot at the position. Tyler Hoover, Micajah Reynolds and Damon Knox have shown great improvement during the spring workouts. These guys will be players to watch on defense during the spring game.
Free safety will also be particular area to pay attention to. With Trenton Robinson graduated, there will be a lot of action in the secondary. Kurtis Drummond and Jairus Jones will be battling for a starting spot while Isaiah Lewis tries to maintain his starting role from last season.
Spartan fans will be itching to see a trick play in the spring game, however, these type of scenarios are meant to be vanilla and injury-free (to a certain extent).
Michigan State has been producing fantastic special teams units the last couple of seasons, but there are some crucial pieces missing. The most notable loss for MSU is the do-it-all receiver and punt returner Keshawn Martin.
The coaches are hoping Nick Hill will be the guy to replace Martin. He has great field vision and releases quickly. He averaged 26.3 yards per gain on kick returns he attempted along with five punts returned last year.
Tony Lippett could also be included in the mix of punt returners, but expect Hill to be the main focus in the spring game.
The kicking game will remain fairly the same personnel-wise. Dan Conroy will be the main placekicker along with Kevin Muma as leading kickoff specialist and Mike Sadler as punter.
Depth may be lacking for MSU kickers, but each have the ability to perform any kind of kick if one were to be injured.
Spring games are always something to look forward to, but do remember that these games are basically scrimmages and not the actual outlook of the season. These games are designed to give the fans a taste of college football action before the long drought of summer.
The players and coaches like to keep things simple during this game, performing the trickery and random plays rarely. The players will also be rotating constantly during the game, so if you expect to see the proposed starters every play, that won't be happening.
Even though the spring game doesn't tell the whole story, at least the fans can get a general idea of where the team stands, and that's all a fan needs to survive until the first kickoff of the season.
The game could get boring, but its worth going to, especially if a guest basketball player throws on a uniform!