When fall rolls around and the Michigan State Spartans once again step on the gridiron, most of the worry rests on one side of the ball: the defense.
That is because the Spartans’ offense is usually it's “bread and butter,” it's true identity as a football team. And while quarterback Kirk Cousins has matured at his position, he also has plenty of help around him.
When it comes to wide receivers, Michigan State has depth and experience. Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham present two unique threats for Cousins.
Dell can run short and long routes, using his speed and 6-foot-2 frame to make plays. As a senior, he is the oldest wide receiver on the team. His experience is crucial to teaching the younger players, either verbally or by setting a visual example on the field.
Cunningham is a different type of receiver than Dell. At 6-foot-2, he actually weighs 20 pounds more than Dell. He has the strength to get up the field and fight with defensive backs for the ball. He is arguably the best down-the-field threat the Spartans currently have.
Keshawn Martin is not as strong or bulky as either Dell or Cunningham, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in speed. The fastest receiver on the team, Martin has breakaway speed and a knack for making big plays when they matter most. He can take a five-yard out and take it 65 yards to the end zone. If “yards after catch” were associated with one receiver in the Big Ten, it would be Martin.
But it’s not only the wide receivers who pose a threat to opposing defenses. The tight ends are pretty good, too.
Senior Charlie Gantt is a beast. At 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, Gantt has great versatility and a knack for getting open. He has over 300 yards receiving in each of the past two seasons, including averaging almost 16 yards per catch over that same span. He is a true red zone threat for the Spartans.
Gantt’s sidekick is Brian Linthicum, another 6-foot-5 threat who has gotten consistently better in East Lansing. Another tall target, Linthicum also knows how to get open. He had almost 200 more yards receiving in 2009 than he did in 2007. The two-tight end set in the playbook is always a good option for offensive coordinator Don Treadwell.
With a myriad of options in terms of passing the football for both Treadwell and Cousins, Michigan State’s offense should be quite improved over last season. The Spartans’ running backs weren’t even mentioned, either.
The Big Ten is a defense-first conference, but the Spartans’ offensive attributes may be able to lead to some big victories.