Michigan State Football: 9 Items on Their Summer To-Do List
Michigan State is coming of a terrific 2010 campaign in which they finished 11-2. Mark Dantonio went from a hospital bed to the Big Ten Coach of the Year.
Do the Spartans have what it takes to win it all in 2011? What teams could get in the way of Michigan State returning to glory?
Here are nine items on Michigan State's To-Do List.
9. Prepare for the Grind of the Big Ten
The Spartans face a brutal four-game stretch from Oct. 1 to Oct. 29. They face Ohio State in Columbus before a bye week, then Michigan and Wisconsin at home and Nebraska on the road.
This stretch of games will certainly decide if the Spartans are contenders or pretenders and what type of mental fortitude that they have. The Buckeyes, Badgers and Cornhuskers are all teams that love to pound the football between the tackles. Will the Spartans be prepared to face the big boys of the new and improved Big Ten?
Coach Dantonio better use his time during the upcoming summer months wisely.
8. Replace Greg Jones
It will be extremely difficult for Max Bulloughs to replace one of the greatest linebackers to have ever played for Michigan State in Greg Jones. How good was Jones?
Well, he was the first Spartan to earn back-to-back consensus first-team All-America honors (2009-10) since Bubba Smith and George Webster in 1965-66. Furthermore, he was only the fourth two-time consensus first-team All-American in Michigan State football history.
Jones was also a First-team All-Big Ten player for three straight years. The guy quite simply was Michigan State.
The Spartans need to be sure that Max Bulloughs is ready to be a premier player on their defense, and summer camp is a great way to find out.
7. Keep Kirk Healthy
The Spartans have arguably the best quarterback in the Big Ten returning in Kirk Cousins. He has everything you would want in a quarterback. Cousins is big, strong, athletic and smart.
Cousins had a great 67 completion percentage in 2010, while throwing for 20 touchdowns.
Cousins started every game for MSU and averaged over 210 yards passing per game. As long as Cousins stays healthy, the Spartans will put up a ton of points and have a legitimate shot at the Big Ten title.
6. Pick Up the Slack in the Passing Game
The Spartans lost their leading receiver from 2010 in Mark Dell. He led the team in catches, total receiving yards and yards per catch.
B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin have the athletic potential to be better than Mark Dell ever was at Michigan State. They must establish themselves as the premier wideouts on the team during summer camp.
5. A Star in the Making?
Everyone knows that Edwin Baker is a star. He will be a household name by the end of the 2011 season. The true sophomore ranked fourth in the Big Ten and 30th in the nation with his 92.4-yard rushing average.
Baker rushed for over 1,200 yards in his second season at Michigan State. He was a Big Ten First Team selection in the run-heavy conference.
Baker may be a Heisman candidate in 2011, but don't forget about Larry Caper. Le'Veon Bell moved past Caper as Caper nursed a hand injury early in the 2010 season. But don't forget, Caper was the No. 1 back as a freshman in 2009, and he's determined to get himself back into the rotation.
Look for Capers to burst onto the scene again this summer.
4. Make Hoover a Star
Will Gholston has been the player that is getting all of the national recognition, but Hoover finally started to live up to his own high recruiting rankings as a redshirt sophomore in 2010. This summer will be huge for Hoover to improve his hands along the D-line and get even stronger.
A strong showing in the weight room this summer should help Hoover live up to his All-American potential.
3. Find a Unit That Works
The Spartans had an extremely solid offensive line in 2010, but the majority of that group will not be back in 2011. Michigan State lost three starters from the offensive line in left tackle (and team leader) D.J. Young, center John Stipek and right tackle J'Michael Deane.
Only the left tackle spot seems to have Coach Dantonio assured that it is in good hands, with top recruit David Barrent ready to become a star. The Michigan State coaching staff will have earn their salaries this summer if they wish to have a dominant offensive line.
2. The Next L.T.?
Michigan State was able to sign Lawrence Thomas out of their backyard and look for him to make an immediate impact on the Spartans defense.
Thomas is a monster already at 6'4", 240 pounds, and he has his eyes set on the linebacker vacancy left by Eric Gordon. Don't be surprised if Thomas leads the Spartans in sacks in a year or two from the linebacker position.
Thomas has all of the tools to be a star.
1. Win It Outright!
The expectations have not been higher for a Michigan State football team in a long time. The Spartans won their first share of a Big Ten championship in 20 years.
They are loaded with returning stars on both sides of the ball in Kirk Cousins, Edwin Baker, Johnny Adams and Trenton Robinson. They also will not be leaving many points on the field with one of the best kickers in the game in Dan Conroy back for more in 2011.
Michigan State has the coaches, players and fans to have the nation believing that they will be playing in the first ever Big Ten conference championship game.
Becoming the outright Big Ten champions in 2011 is No. 1 on the Michigan State Spartans To-Do list.