So even with a 4-4 (1-3) record and a painfully anemic offense for the second straight season, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio is sticking by embattled offensive coordinator Dan Roushar. Well, of course he is. Per MLive.com, here's what Dantonio said about Roushar earlier in the week:
“It’s about players making plays,” Dantonio said Tuesday. “The offense really has not changed. Play-calling, you try to help guys make plays. My impression of the whole thing right now is (Roushar) is tucked right here under my wing. They want to criticize, they can criticize me a little bit because I’m in charge.”
“I just got through watching the championship game (loss to Wisconsin last year),” Dantonio said. “We scored 39 points, 29 at halftime. How many did we score out here (against Wisconsin)? How many did we score against Michigan last year? How many did we score in the bowl game even though it was a tough bowl game?
“We’ve had plenty of big plays. It’s explosive plays that move the ball -- explosive plays. We’ve had explosive players that make the plays -- Keshawn Martin, B.J. Cunningham -- again, guys who are experienced.”
What's responsible for Michigan State's slow start in 2012?
Dantonio has a good point about the level of talent on each team; Michigan State had the Big Ten's best stable of wideouts in 2011 and now it's got arguably the worst. There's been some pretty poor execution by the wide receivers and there's really no getting around throws that hit receivers in the hands and then fly away.
But a good offensive coordinator isn't one that runs an offense that doesn't change from year to year. A good offensive coordinator tailors his offense to his talent, and while he doesn't need to scrap entire schemes from year to year, he does need to have higher priorities than "keep the offense the same."
There are concrete examples of this inflexibility hurting Michigan State. As mentioned before, Michigan State's wide receiver talent is far behind its 2011 version, and four-year starter Kirk Cousins has been replaced by first-year starter Andrew Maxwell. So one would expect MSU to lean on its rushing game more as a result. Le'Veon Bell is the unquestioned workhorse of the offense, after all...right?
Through eight games in 2012, Andrew Maxwell has 290 pass attempts. Through eight games in 2011, Kirk Cousins had 231.
Through eight games in 2012, the Spartans have 296 rush attempts. Through eight games in 2011, the Spartans had 288.
In other words, with an offense that by all accounts should be considerably heavier on the run than last season, Dan Roushar has called Andrew Maxwell's number more than anyone else's, despite a consistently lousy receiving corps to throw to.
That's all on Roushar, and if all Mark Dantonio is going to say about it is that Roushar is "under his wing" and that Dantonio deserves criticism instead, then all right, we'll play it like that.
Hey, Mark Dantonio: Your defense is ridiculously good and you have a 4-4 record to show for it. That's because your offense is a terrible fit for your talent, and if that's not your offensive coordinator's fault it's yours. Fix it or enjoy the Heart of Dallas Bowl.