Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pledge Week: Linebackers

Our continuing series on the 2012 Pledges, today we look at Linebackers. Have you wondered how MSU seemed so much better on third down defense this year? Better linebacker pass coverage sure helps. The linebackers job is to come up and fill the gaps created by the Defensive Line in the running game and provide man coverage on TE's in the passing game and zone on WRs.

Riley Bullough

Courtesy of MSU Scout
The Bullough lineage is starting to read like that bit out of the bible. Hank the Spartan and NFL Coach begat Shane and Chuck. Shane and Chuck played linebacker at Michigan State in the 80's. Shane begat Max, Riley and Byron. Max and Riley will play linebacker at Michigan State. I'll betcha a dollar we have some idea what Byron will do. A recently projected depth chart for 2085 featured 11 Bulloughs on Defense all playing Mike in some sort of weird A11 variant defense.

Riley committed to Michigan State on 4/30/2011. He had offers from MSU, Iowa and Wisconsin as well as a handful of MAC schools. He was a three-star prospect  according to all three recruiting services. All three services also project him as an Outside Linebacker. Bullough sat out most of his senior year hurt. So obviously his senior year highlights are going to be non-existent. Very short.

A Predictor of Future Success is YOUtube 

What's to love about this kid? Well, after he hits someone all that's left of them is a puddle of teeth. Completely independent of the Bullough lineage a kid who's played QB in HS is going to understand the development of pass routes early on, which would make him a good candidate for early playing time if there was any to be had. What else? Oh yeah, my brain hurts from how hard he was hitting kids. 

What's not to like? Hm. He seems about as fast as his brother, who was 20 lbs heavier at the same age, so a bit slower, but if he can put on 15-20 lbs without losing any speed he'll be more than fast enough to play Sam.

2012 and Beyond Tea Leaves: Redshirt in 2012. Sees the field in 2014 regularly. Sees the field in 2013 situationally and certainly on Senior Day so he and Max can have playing time together.

Jamal Lyles

Courtesy 247 Sports
Jamal Lyles committed to on 6/23/2011. His offer sheet included MSU, Pitt, Vandy, the Cuse and Iowa. Which is better than Indiana and a slew of MAC schools like a low three-star, but not really the offer sheet accompanies a dude who is ranked a four-star prospect by Rivals and Scout and a three-star by 247 Sports. Lyles was not offered by Michigan and I have a strong feeling this one will come back to bite them despite what I just finished writing above.

See, like so many of the people Dantonio has brought in the last two recruiting classes, Lyles has the frame to bulk up quite a bit and his likely future is on the Defensive Line. So much so that I projected him there in the divination based 2012-2015 two deeps I did for the Only Colors a few weeks ago. Can you ever have too many talented pass rushers in College Football? Can you ever have too many supercars? No. Having more only makes things better.

A Predictor of Future Success is YOUtube

What's to love? Kid played WR/LB in High school. So athleticism is no issue this film is really kind of grainy and that makes it hard to read out how the kid plays a little more technically.

2012 Tea Leaves and Beyond: Redshirt in 2012. He'll see the field, but I'm not sure when, where or how. It'll honestly depend on whether he sticks at LB or puts on weight and slides down to DL.  I suspect that choice will even be his.

2013 Needs: I'd say three and to continue our Defensive Domination, two need to be high quality recruits. This would let them redshirt in 13 and be ready to see the field in 2014 after the departure of Bullough and Denicos Allen.

Here's Your Shield, Demetrious Cox

It's raining 4-stars in East Lansing!  The Spartans just received a commitment from Pennsylvania safety Demetrious Cox, who is a consensus 4-star recruit.  This is a really big one for the Spartans.  If we added up the ratings for all the recruits, it's quite likely that Cox might be the highest rated recruit this year, or perhaps tied with Aaron Burbridge.  Cox is generally considered a top-20 safety, and Scout actually ranks him the 8th best safety in the country.  Cox also received offers from just about everyone.  Some of his top offers include: Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, and Wisconsin.

Cox does possess good size for a safety (6'1" and 190 lbs.), but like Madaris his speed is unclear. Rivals has him running the 40 in 4.48 seconds, while ESPN has him running it at 4.71. Scout also says, "Cox is not a player who is going to light up stopwatches" and rates his backpedal speed as an "area for improvement." But on the other hand, ESPN also says, "Cox is a really explosive athlete with terrific play speed, sudden change-of-direction and the ability to be a homerun threat in space."  It's hard to tell what's going on here, so let's look at some video:

First of all, we can see that Cox did just about everything for his team.  He played quarterback, safety, and punt returner (anything else?).  His speed looks pretty good in this video.  He's not a 4.3 guy, but he looks like he has good speed, and most importantly he plays fast.  He plays with confidence and aggressiveness, especially when he's taking on the role of a running back.  There's not much video of him at safety, but the few clips there are show that he seems to have good instincts.  He seems to be near the action and looks like a solid hitter.  He also has the ability to go up for the ball, so he should be able to challenge taller receivers.

Since Cox appears to have played a lot of positions in high school, I suspect he'll be a little raw at safety as a freshman.  Moreover, safety is one of those positions that requires some tactical awareness to play well.  You just don't see many freshmen safeties.  So as highly-regarded as Cox is, I think he's not going to get much playing time until his second year in the program and at that point he probably still won't be a starter -- unless his athleticism and instincts turn out to be too outstanding.  Regardless, the secondary looks to be set for several years.

This may just about do it for the 2012 class, unless Dodson, Johnson, or Jackson commits.  We had to wait a long time for these final commits and it's been worth it.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Here's Your Shield, Monty Madaris

I had my doubts for a minute there that the Spartans were going to get anyone else this recruiting season, but it looks like the suspense was worth it. Today, the Spartans received a commitment from Ohio wide receiver Monty Madaris.  Folks, Madaris is an exciting pick-up.  All of the recruiting sites (except Rivals) consider him a 4-star recruit and they all consider him a top-60 receiver.  Scout rates him the highest, ranking him the 26th receiver in the country.  Madaris also had some pretty solid offers from places like Boston College, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Florida State, Illinois, Michigan, and Nebraska.  So basically, he's good.

Madaris has excellent size for a receiver (6'2" and 190 lbs.), but there seems to be some concern about his speed.  None of the sites have a 40-time recorded for Madaris and Scout lists his speed as area for improvement.  The only 40-time that is available come from one of his videos, which says he runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds.  

Actually, whether his speed is a concern or not depends on which of his videos you watch.  In one video, his speed does seem to be less impressive and then there is this one: 

In this one Madaris looks like he possesses all the tools to be a great receiver.  He looks athletic.  For a 6'2" guy, he looks quick and elusive; he is able to put moves on tacklers and has the burst to get by them.  When he gets to the second level he shows great top-end speed.  He also shows the ability to go up and win jump-balls and shows some grit, diving into the end-zone.  I am hoping that this video is from Madaris' senior year and the other video I saw was of his junior year.  That would show some serious development on his part.

Madaris' commitment wraps up the Spartans' wide receiver recruiting.  The Spartans picked up four wide receivers in this class, including two 4-star guys.  Aaron Burbridge is the most likely of the four to see playing time as a freshman, but to me, the Madaris in this video looks like someone that could compete for some playing time.  We'll have to see.  Even if he doesn't play as a freshman, Madaris should eventually become one of the Spartans' best receivers.  

Pledge Week: Kickers

In case you didn't know, MSU has a tradition of graduating top-flight kickers into the NFL such as  Paul Edinger, Dave Rayner and Morten Anderson.  This year MSU is taking a walk-on kicker, a local yokel by the name of Evan Fischer. No punters this year.

Evan Fischer

Courtesy of Detroit News
Evan Fischer committed to Michigan State on 11/2/2011. He is being brought in as a preferred walk-on at MSU. According to Rivals he had no college offers, but that's not terribly unusual for a kicker. Kickers often get offers the way Head Coaching Offers get made, you don't get an offer unless you're going to say yes. So in Fischer's case, MSU wanted him as a walk-on and he got no MAC offers because he wasn't going to go there. Clear as mud?

None of this is to say he's short on accomplishments, which you can find on his website. I won't link it here because his home address is on there and that would be super creepy of me. However, the short list are: MHSAA Single Season Field Goal Record Holder. A made 52 yarder this season. He was 11 of 20 on the season which sounds kind of blah until you consider two things. 1.) Brett Swenson, the "Half-Pint Hero and Goss Eraser" was 7 of 11 his senior year of high school. 2.) He was 1 of 7 from over 50 yards, including 0-5 from north of 55 yards. I assume these attempts from more than 55 yards came at the end of halves, right Holt coach? because it would be crazy to expect a 17 year old to make NFL long shot field goals. Anyway, so adjusted for reasonability he finishes 10 of 13 inside of 50.  Which works for me.

A Predictor of Future Success is YOUtube

Seems like a good kid, gets lots of loft on his kicks. Not really sure what else to say. He's a walk-on until he can Dan Conroy his way onto the field.

2012 Prognostication and Beyond: He'll be sitting behind Conroy and Muma. I'm getting the feeling that Muma might always be a kickoff specialist. He will redshirt in 2012, no matter what. I think his first chance to see the field will be after Conroy graduates in 2013.

2013 Need at Kicker: 0
2013 Need at Punter: 0

Pledge Week: Running Backs

The Dantonio offense relies upon a powerful running game. Running the ball is used to chew up clock, rest the defense and set up playaction. This year MSU took two running backs to help bolster it's ability in these areas.

Nick Tompkins

Nick Tompkins committed to Michigan State on 6/26/2011 during the U2 concert. Not that I attended or anything. While I'm on the hypothetical subject, the east side upper deck of Spartan Stadium is kind of like 1980's Poland. If you are going to charge seat fees, feel free to raise some moneys to bring the east side of the stadium into the roaring 90s. Anyway, Tompkins was rated a three star prospect by Rivals, Scout and 247 Sports. He was ranked nationally by Scout as the #70 running back and by 247 as the 54th best RB. He was ranked as Rivals' number 11 all-purpose back, rivals has a separate rank for running backs.

His offer sheet is pretty stellar. At the time of his commitment he had offers from Wisconsin, California, Boston College, Georgia Tech and a host of other schools. By conference is a little more impressive, he had offers from five Big Ten schools, six ACC schools, two Big East schools, a Pac-12 school and three SEC schools. So this is a very solid pickup. Very solid.

A Predictor Of Future Success Is YouTube

In this video, there are basically only things to love. Tompkins "one-cut" move is devastating. When he cuts upfield, that's it in both of these videos. He has the speed to outrun anyone on his high school field. He doesn't dance around a whole lot in the backfield, but it looks like he could if he needs to. The only thing I didn't see was a lot of him catching the ball, but that's not really a knock so much as an observation. This is a stellar pick-up and we will all be very excited about him when it's time for him to see the field.
Prognostication for 2012 and Beyond: If two of our three running backs go down in 2012 Tompkins might see the field. So again. Disaster only. He has a chance to crack the two-deep as early as 2013 when the battle to replace Larry Caper will take place between him and Nick Hill. Both are speed backs to compliment Bell's thunder. He will see the field in 2014 at the latest.

Marcus Horne

Marcus Horne committed to MSU on 1/29/2012. He was a two-star prospect according to rivals and had an offer Redeemable At Any MAC School. He has accepted his commitment as a greyshirt. A greyshirt means that they have been offered a scholarship in the future, but that you will pay some portion of your college on your own.

A good basketball analog recruiting-wise is Austin Thornton. He wants to be a part of a Big Ten team, but would not get a Big Ten offer for a full ride. Anyway, football-wise these are the kind of kids you need to lean on, one or two of these walk-on/greyshirt guys make valuable contributions to their team each year.

Horne looks like Tompkins minus the "one-cut devastation". I really like his vision and I think if he can put on 20 lbs without losing a lot of speed he could be a thunder back to Tompkins lightning. As one would expect of a greyshirt prospect, he's a bit of a project. The weight gain I think would be necessary for him to see significant playing time.

Prognostication for 2012 and Beyond: Will not play in 2012. Could see the field in the 2014-2015 area. Will depend on how he does in the weight room.

2013 Needs: 1 Thunder and maybe 1 Lightning back. The lightning back is a nice to have, the Thunder back is a necessity, after Bell, the next potential candidate at Thunder back is Horne, but as previously stated, he is a bit of a project.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pledge Week: Quarterbacks

Meta: Pledge Week is going to be the series in which we meet the recruits for Signing Day. Position groups will be done in order of stability to avoid Signing Day fuss.

Writing this segment is going pretty easy most years because unless we're gonna party like it's 2007 and take Kirk Cousins and Nick Foles, MSU is only going to take one quarterback most years. This year MSU took one quarterback, Michael "Tyler" O' Connor.

Courtesy of MSU Scout
O'Connor, a QB from Lima Catholic Central(OH), committed to MSU on 6/6/2011. He chose MSU over offers from Northwestern, Boston College and West Virginia. O'Connor checks in as 5.7 3-star recruit from Rivals ranked as the 18th pro-style quarterback, a 3-star recruit from Scout and a 4-star recruit ranked 13th nationally by 247 Sports.

Not long after committing to Michigan State, O'Connor was invited to and attended the Elite 11 Quarterback camp. Calling it the Elite 11 is becoming a bit of a misnomer, they've regularly invited twelve to this camp for a while now, invited thirteen last year and then this year they opened it up to twenty-four. Then an elite 11 are selected. This isn't a knock on O'Connor, but it explains how he went to the Elite 11 and didn't finish in the Elite 11. He DID however, get a chance to work with Kirk Cousins, which is always encouraging to read. So anyway, the QB rankings of 13-23 are probably about accurate for him.

A Predictor of Future Success Is YouTube

These are O'Connor's junior highlights. There are some things to love, he throws an excellent deep ball and is very mobile in the pocket. I really, really loved some of his throws into coverage, great throws into windows between 2-3 defenders. He really does a nice job throwing the ball in traffic. He reminds me a bit of every Northwestern QB you've ever hated. If he doesn't get the read he wants, he can and will take off which helps keep the pass coverages a little more friendly for him. He runs the zone read option pretty well and I suspect you'll see him run it occasionally as a gimmick play when he sees the field at MSU.

There are some things I'm a little tepid about in the above film he has a few throws where he puts some zip on them, but not many. To me this begs the question of whether he has to take zip off his throws so his guys can catch them. Further, while I love his mobility, I think at this point looking at fifteen month old film he's a little too "hoppy" in the pocket. This is a much more "fixable" issue than not putting enough zip on the ball.

All of O'Connor's Senior Highlights are behind the pay wall, so a junior to senior year comparison isn't happening.

Prognostication for 2012 and Beyond: O'Connor barring disaster will not see the field in 2012. He and class of 2011 Quarterback Connor Cook will compete for the starting QB job in 2014. While I like his mobility I suspect it will not be encouraged at MSU like it would at Northwestern. I look forward to seeing his Spring Ball in 2013 to see how he handles short throws(the highlight tape above had lots of deep balls, deep outs and over-the middle but very little in the way of quick slants, quick outs and drag routes). All in all, another solid quarterback pickup and I look forward to seeing him and Cook push each other behind Maxwell the next couple of years.

2013 Need: 1

Friday, January 27, 2012

Spartans Headed To The League

As many of you are already aware, this could be the Spartans' best draft performance in recent memory.  So I have decided to begin providing a weekly update on ABDFF of how various Spartans are doing in relation to the NFL draft.  Folks, these are exciting times.  The NFL draft process is young and there is already a lot of good news about the Spartans. Let's start with a list of Spartan seniors and early departures.

42            Todd Anderson        FB            6-2           265          SR            Napoleon, Mich. - Napoleon
85            Garrett Celek          TE            6-5           252          SR            Cincinnati, Ohio - LaSalle
8              Kirk Cousins             QB           6-3           205          SR            Holland, Mich. - Holland Christian
3              B.J. Cunningham     WR          6-2           215          SR            Westerville, Ohio - Westerville South
67            Joel Foreman          OG           6-4           315          SR            Highland, Mich. - Milford
88            Brian Linthicum      TE            6-5           245          SR            St. Louis, Mo. - Clemson
82            Keshawn Martin     WR          5-11         189          SR            Inkster, Mich. - John Glenn
75            Jared McGaha         OL            6-6           298          SR            Powell, Tenn. - Powell
7              Keith Nichol            WR          6-2           220          SR            Lowell, Mich. - Oklahoma
69            Blake Pacheco         DL            6-1           264          SR            Salinas, Calif. - Monterey (Calif.) Peninsula College
96            Kevin Pickelman      NT           6-4           288          SR            Marshall, Mich. - Marshall
73            Arthur Ray Jr.          OG           6-3           299          SR            Chicago, Ill. - Mount Carmel
39            Trenton Robinson   S              5-10         195          SR            Bay City, Mich. - Bay City Central
16            Chris D. Rucker        WR          5-9           178          SR            Detroit, Mich. - Detroit Country Day
20            Kyle Selden             P              6-5           199          SR            Waterford, Mich. - Our Lady of the Lakes
47            Adam Setterbo       FB            6-3           245          SR            Spring Lake, Mich. - Spring Lake Senior
81            Brad Sonntag          WR          5-8           176          SR            Saginaw, Mich. - Nouvel Catholic Central
57            Johnathan Strayhorn               DT            6-0           272          SR            Detroit, Mich. - Oak Park
4              Edwin Baker            RB           5-9           210          JR            Highland Park, Mich. - Oak Park
99            Jerel Worthy           DT            6-3           310          JR            Huber Heights, Ohio – Wayne

So far, most of the news is about the seniors.  And you would expect that since we have all these "senior-related" events going on: the Senior Bowl, the East-West Shrine game, and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.

Nevertheless, let me just just briefly start with Jerel Worthy.  As everyone knows, Worthy has been considered a first-round pick most of the year.  He's still considered a first-rounder by most mock drafts.  But at one point, guys like ESPN's Todd McShay had him going in the top 15, and now most mock drafts seem to have him going in the bottom half of the first round.  I think that once the NFL Scouting Combines get going, Worthy will get his chance to impress and move up into the top 15.

Then we have Kirk Cousins, who seems to be making a big splash at the Senior Bowl camp.  About a week or two ago, Mel Kiper Jr. was suggesting that Cousins could go by about the 5th round of the NFL draft.  Now we're hearing people (like Sporting News' Russ Lande) talk about Cousins going as high as the 2nd round.  That's crazy!  Oh no it isn't.  I've said it before, Cousins has played at times like a first-rounder -- particularly during the B1G championship game -- and it was only a matter of time before others saw what Spartan fans saw this year.  If Cousins does end up going in the second round, don't be surprised to see a significant boost in MSU's quarterback recruiting, as soon as next year.

Then there's BJ Cunningham.  In case you missed his touchdown at the East-West Shrine game, here it is.  Other than that, there's not much else...except if you think it's a big deal that ESPN's Todd McShay was raving about Cunningham!  McShay thinks Cunningham was the best receiver at the practices and that he could end up going in the third round of the draft.

Finally, there's Brian Linthicum, who is playing in the Senior Bowl.  According to Tony Pauline at SI.com, Linthicum has been impressive at the Senior Bowl practices: "Brian Linthicum (TE/Michigan State) has really impressed all day. He looked very athletic during opening drills and has made several impressive catches in full scrimmage."

Worthy, Cousins, and Cunningham have garnered most of the early attention, but here's a quick list of some related items:

- Keith Nichol made a nice grab (video) at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
- Kirk Cousins, B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin, Edwin Baker, and Trenton Robinson have all been invited to the NFL Scouting Combine.
- Trenton Robinson was interviewed by the Detroit Lions.  
- Unfortunately, there's not much news on other guys I expect have a good chance to get drafted, guys like Kevin Pickelman (injured), Todd Anderson, and Joel Foreman.  But hopefully, these guys will get invited to the NFL Combines, soon.

Leonidas writes on his own blog What Is Your Profession?. In addition to asking what your profession is he has begun writing to cover recruiting for ABDFF in his spare time. You can hit him up at noble.leonidas@gmail.com.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Modest Price of Succe$$

Do you remember when everyone was freaking out about Narduzzi leaving for Texas A&M? A&M was going to bring in the money truck and that would be that. It would have involved doubling Duzzer's salary, allegedly, to pay him equally to the A&M offer.

Well, the check is here and it's time to pay up.

Normally this is the part where I would come in with the populist rage and expect to continue the pace of success MSU football has enjoyed without this newly instituted manadatory "donation".  That's not what this post is going to be about though, this post is going to be about how this "donation" has become a part of most major college football programs. In this ESPN article from 2006!!, they talk about 50 yard seats at Florida going for $12,000 a season a seat. All of a sudden an extra 500 looks pretty reasonable by comparison. Some other schools that participate in this "mandatory donation" program are Florida, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Alabama, LSU, Michigan and Nebraska.

Why is it important to keep up with the Joneses? Well, for starters in this article written a few weeks ago the following point gets made:

The average Bowl Subdivision assistant made nearly 11% more in 2011 than he did last year, USA TODAY's third survey of assistant coaches' compensation finds. Since 2009, the average pay for FBS assistants has increased to more than $182,000 from just over $155,000 — an 18% jump.

I don't recall what the salary of an assistant coach who is not the recruiting coordinator, offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator is, but it was below that $182,000 dollar mark last I checked. (The number 155k is what's in my mind). Michigan State had a better W-L record of all but seven teams in 2010-2011. Boise State, TCU, Alabama, LSU, Oregon, Oklahoma State and Stanford. I believe of those seven teams Alabama and LSU have mandatory football donations. Oklahoma State has T. Boone Pickens, Stanford is a private school, Oregon has Phil Knight, BSU and TCU aren't BCS schools.

If you're curious how much the cost of your season ticket is going up, you can find out right here. Mine are going up 50 dollars per seat. At an average of 51 dollars per ticket per game, MSU is now squarely competing with the Lions for your season ticket buck. I attended several games with a Lions season ticket holder last year who sat in the endzone in the 100 sections for 58 dollars a ticket. Luckily you save money on the 8 dollar beers.

While it might seem I'm against this uptick in costs, I am in fact for it, conditionally. I mean look at the MSU home schedule in 2012. Boise State, Notre Dame, EMU and the fighting Mike Harts, OSU, Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern, that's a fantastic home schedule. There will be a number of memorable games there. And who wouldn't want to add MSU to a list and have it look like this: Florida, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Alabama, LSU, Michigan and Nebraska. As college football programs go, that's a pretty damn elite echelon.

The only problem is that for me as a fan, this moves the needle on program success from a nice-to-have to must-have. If MSU fans are going to pay Alabama-like ticket prices, it's not unreasonable to expect Alabama-like success. I have every faith that Mark Dantonio can deliver, but it bothers me a bit that I feel like he has to.

To 400 Wins, May There Be 400 More

Two days after my wife and I got married, we took our honeymoon. The first night after arriving we sat down to dinner and I offered a toast. "To two happy days of marriage, may there be two more." It was meant mostly as a joke and approximately 4.3 percent seriously in that we should not take a moment of our marriage for granted. Last night after Tom's four hundredth victory at Michigan State I tweeted, "Congrats to Tom. What a wonderful 400 wins, let there be 400 more." It was in honor of that toast, previously an inside joke to me and the Mrs., that I framed the tweet that way.

For Izzo, it's easy for me to look back on last night's milestone and remember a time where maybe the toast "To 200 wins, may there be 200 more." would have seemed premature. Indeed, as he approached win number 200, this from the State News.

Coach Tom Izzo will have a chance to notch his 200th win as MSU's head coach against Iowa on Wednesday.

Izzo, who is in his ninth year on the job, was asked if he'll be around for another 200 wins at MSU.

"No, I won't be around that long," he said. "I'm not saying that I'm done tomorrow, but I don't see guys going 25 to 30 years at the same place very often.

"I think coaches wear out their welcome. I don't think that's a negative, I just think that's the way it is."

Izzo seemed discontent with Michigan State at the time and perhaps we were a bit discontent with him too. At the time he was a couple of years removed from his last final four and Izzo was 10-8 on the season with an NCAA tourney bid no sure thing. He had his crack at the big time but had not yet converted it to guaranteed long-term success. It would be easy for someone to decide they could walk away and move to more fertile recruiting grounds, but that's not who Izzo is. Izzo is the kid from Iron Mountain who can jam out on the accordion.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Weekly Wednesday Wrecruiting Wrap

Commitments, We Has Them.

- Safety Mark Meyers decommitted from Toledo over the weekend and committed to MSU! Should you be excited about a kid who decommitted from Toledo to play at Michigan State? Eh, not as excited as you should be if Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu signed up to play ball at MSU, but his film is respectable.

The kid looks like he has a lot of experience playing centerfield in a zone defense. How convenient for a team like ours that tends to run exactly that kind of pass coverage.(Narduzzi used to say our base defense was quarters, but it's been less distinctly so since Wheel-Route-A-Palooza in 2009.)

His offer sheet is less than spectacular, his next best offer being Toledo. Since Toledo's HC left to go die at Illinois, Illinois showed interest but had not yet offered. Same for Nebraska. Based off of the video above he seems to have good ball-hawking skills(plus), good speed(plus) and plays in read and react defense(huge plus). Some areas he'll plainly need to work on before seeing the field at MSU are, his read and react doesn't seem to be THAT good. His 40 is plainly not the advertised 4.46. He's a solid late-season pickup at a position of need.

- Defensive Tackle David Fennell of Portland, Oregon will be joining MSU next fall as our first Oregonian recruit that I can recall. His father, Dave "Dr. Death" Fennell is in the CFL Hall of Fame. Should you be excited about a kid who literally has no other offers? In this case, yes. Usually, no. Here's why.

The kid pretty much lives in Beast Mode. Get up in the morning. Beast Mode. Have a glass of milk. Beast Mode. Knock over other High School kids. Beast Mode.  Based off the video above, he seems to get good push, slips blocks well, can move his guy around as needed. What could he improve? He seems to overpursue a bit. That's really all I got on him. This will be another in the tradition of Keshawn Martin, Le'Veon Bell, Darqueze Dennard type players.

Scholarship Count

MSU has one, MAYBE, two scholarships left. More on this in a skosh.

Official Visits For This Upcoming Weekend

Marcus Horne - RB(Uncommitted) - Horne is a kid that MSU is probably looking to take with a greyshirt. A greyshirt is when a kid pays one or more years of their college while they wait for a scholarship. Think of it like walking-on, except you're really a preferred walk-on, except you're more preferred than a preferred walk-on.

Kid has very good speed although not elite. Size-wise he's about the same size as Tompkins, our 2012 RB. Honestly, I think he gets a full-ride offer if we didn't already have another back with this one-cut skill set.

Terrell Jackson - DT(Uncommitted, Formerly Committed to Duke) & Jaleel Johnson - DT(Committed to Iowa, loosely) - It's difficult to talk about Jackson without talking about Johnson. Expect the recruitment to play out roughly like this.

Johnson is the preferred candidate between Johnson and Jackson. Johnson took his official to Iowa this past weekend and had a great time, but will still take his official to MSU. Jackson as of right now does not have an MSU offer. Jackson received an offer from Iowa late yesterday.

So, in summary. MSU will get Jackson or Johnson. Iowa will get Johnson or Jackson. Jaleel Johnson is deciding where he and Terrell Jackson will be going to college. Johnson will go to either MSU or Iowa and Jackson will go to the other.

Jackson Footage

All I could find was a video of a different Terrell Jackson. This one was 5'11" and 170.

Jaleel Johnson Footage

Either will do. I'd prefer Johnson because he is already more built at almost 280 where Jackson is smaller. Also, Iowa fans hate MSU football. They hated us before we beat them at Iowa in 2011 despite Ferentz's 3-1 record against them at the time, they hated us for stealing David Barrent even though they stole Cedric Everson from us on Signing Day, they hated us having Keshawn Martin pass on them down three scores at home even though Marvin McNutt did the same thing to us last year.

So if they're going to hate us let's have it be because we flat out stole one of their commitments, eh?

JaMichael Winston, DE(Committed to Arkansas) - I don't know why the hell this kid is listed as committed, he's taking more official visits than many uncommitted kids. Frankly, he's smitten with Clemson and not coming here. Here's some video anyway so you can covet what you can't have.

The kid is lightning quick, but he looks pretty damn pedestrian at shedding blocks. When he actually gets blocked, which is rare.

Other Notes

- Monty Madaris will decide between MSU and Cincy. I'm thinking Cincy honestly. More on this after his decision.

- Kyle Dodson took his official this past weekend and was the subject of some Izzone chanting when they weren't picking on Robbie Hummel. A funny story on this after Signing Day.

- JP Holtz decides tonight between MSU and Pitt on Pittsburgh TV. As Mike from The Little Brother Blog said, you don't decide on local TV to pick the out of state school.

Best Guess to Round Out The Class

- Jaleel Johnson DT, Monty Madaris WR

Meta Note: Starting effective immediately, Leonidas from What Is Your Profession will be taking over as recruiting guru for A Beautiful Day For Football. Recruiting is one of his passions and strengths as an MSU blogger and we're damn glad to have him. More elaborate intro when his first post goes up.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Proposed College Playoff Ranking System Pt. 1

Part One, today, part two later this week. Thanks to both KJ and Ty for talking things through on this.

Currently, I'm reading Dan Wetzel's marvelous book Death to the BCS. The mid-book review would be like that of a great documentary, it asks many great questions, points out the flaws in the current system flawlessly and offers some answers that are incomplete. This is a good thing, a book with all the answers would come across as dictatorial and anything that commands a billion dollars needs a democratic, conversational solution.

Wetzel et al(I've always said and pals in conversation, it's just more fun to read that way). Wetzel and pals offer the solution of a sixteen team playoff with the eleven conferences getting automagic bids into the playoff and the remaining five teams being drawn at large. They go on to state that all the games except the Championship Game would be played at the higher seed's home field. Which as a Michigan State fan(brr..), still I think if we were playing to be in the elite eight of college football against the best in CFB, my zeal for king and country would keep me warm.

And beer, so very very much beer could keep me warm

Still, my mind immediately went to two things. First, how could you fairly decide which five teams get in at-large? Obviously human rankings are not reliable and computers while reliable still produce results that a human can look at and know are incorrect. Second, since the home field team would have a distinct advantage over the away team(Can you imagine Texas playing at Michigan State on January 3rd? That's simply not fair.) how can someone ensure that the teams are ranked fairly?

Were someone to draw up this list using the final BCS ranking on December 4th, 2011 they would look like this.

2011 Postseason Rankings - BCS

1.)LSU(SEC Champs)
3.)Oklahoma State(Big 12 Champs)
4.) Stanford(At-Large)
5.) Oregon(Pac-12 Champs)
6.) Arkansas(At-Large)
7.) Boise State(At-Large)
8.) Kansas State(At-Large)
9.) Wisconsin(Flopping Champs)
10.) Clemson(ACC Champs)
11.) TCU(Mountain West Champs)
12.) Houston(Conference-USA Champs)
13.) West Virginia(Big East Champs)
14.) N. Illinois(MAC Champs)
15.)  Arkansas State(Sun Belt Champs)
16.)  La Tech (WAC Champs)

* - Teams 14-16 were unranked, Northern Illinois received 36 votes in the final coaches poll, Arkansas State received 1 vote and La Tech received zero. God rest their souls.

The bracket then looks like this.

Russell Wilson finally does get a trip to Manhattan!

This isn't bad, we don't have to abide the annual Boise whining about how they don't get a shot to play for the national title game, after all they play two actual games and 10 tune-ups on their way to an undefeated season every year so it's totally fair that they should get a shot to be mentioned in the same breath as teams who play 8-10 real games and 2 tune up games.

Honestly, my biggest beef with these rankings is that they are in some part based on preseason rankings which are just crap. The rankings then get carried forward into the season and then there is a bias as the season goes on. I want to reward teams for playing and beating quality competition. So I decided to come up with a rating system. This system needed to calculate a score based on wins, losses, quality of opponent and margin of victory. Is this hypothetical ranking perfect? Absolutely not, but is it based on postseason, pre-bowl results when the maximum set of data has been gathered for a college football season? You betcha. Is it a rating system meant to be open for discussion, certainly.

I'm breaking this post into two parts because I'm actually looking to create two or three different kinds of ratings, since it's the offseason and it's time for hypothetical discussion. One common tenet amongst the various ratings will be though that the base Win-Loss total will be calculated as FBS wins - ((FBS losses * 1) + (FCS losses * 2)). Since this system could actually be used to create an actual set of rankings instead of just the college football playoff rankings, I do want to pay attention to things like the effect of an FCS loss.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Kirk Cousins Will Be A Success on Sundays

In a happy coincidence of random awesomeness, new MSU blog "On the Banks of the Red Cedar" wrote about this very topic yesterday, so go check it out.

It feels bold to predict Kirk Cousins success in the NFL, after all, most mocks have Cousins going somewhere between the late second and the early fifth. He finished 30th in overall passing efficiency in 2011 and 13th among players who will be candidates in the 2012 NFL Draft. His best apparent analog really seems to be Ricky Stanzi who was an efficient and careful QB by his Senior Year. Stanzi was drafted in the fifth round in 2011 and didn't take a live snap in the 2011 NFL Season(he did miss chance due to injury though in late November).

Physically, Cousins has most of the traits you need to play the position. At 6'3" and 205 he is tall enough to play the position and injury has never been an issue for him. At 205-210 he's big enough to take a hit and wasn't seriously injured during his time at Michigan State. Is there another way to examine his deep arm than this?

That throw was about 60 yards and while there was a dude about to hit him in the face just before release and I get the sense he has another five to ten yards in his arm. This is adequate but not elite distance. The "Big-Armed" Quarterbacks in the League can throw 70 to 80 yards. I mention arm strength first because it is the most unchangeable asset in a Quarterback's development at 23 years old. So arm strength: Adequate, but not elite.

Cousins has some things he does really well in the passing game. He sells the playaction pass as well as anyone in college football. *Cousins also has a knack for audibling into the right play. He reads coverages really well pre-snap and can make tight throws into tight spaces if he's made the right read on the play. This also exposes one of his shortcomings as a passer, which is of course that he locks onto his pre-snap read and throws to them whether they are open or not. So Student of the Game: Very Good.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rest In Peace, Joe Paterno

Courtesy of the Orange County Register
I don't have an obituary canned or otherwise for Joe Paterno. He was a great man who made a handful of very poor decisions. I will consider myself lucky if people say the same of me when I pass.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The More You Know: MSU and the H-Back Position

A week or two ago I wrote extensively about MSU and the Disappearing Fullback however, upon further review that writing was incomplete. What I had truly described was Michigan State's usage of Linthicum as an H-Back or rather Roushar's increased usage of the H-Back throughout the season. First, a little H-BackGround!

"The modern two-tight end set was developed by Joe Gibbs and his Redskins staff in the early 1980s. It was created as a countermeasure against 3-4 defenses in general and Lawrence Taylor in particular. Gibbs discovered that an extra tight end on the line of scrimmage was in better position than a fullback to stop Taylor and other elite blitzers.  It also forced Taylor to align wider, thus lengthening the distance between him and the quarterback.  Gibbs soon learned to use the second tight end as an all-purpose blocker: that extra tight end (usually Don Warren, back in the day) might go in motion before the snap to unbalance the offensive line, or he might slip into the backfield as a fullback or sneak into pass patterns. The modern H-back was born." via Tomahawk Nation

The thing is if you google about the H-Back, you won't really find very much. The H-back is not very common in the pros because it requires someone who is capable of receiving,  run blocking and pass blocking. It's rare to find someone who has that set of abilities at a competent NFL level.  An easy reference to know whether a Tight End is being used as an H-Back is this handy dandy cheat sheet.

1.) Are there two Tight Ends on the field?
           - If Yes, Proceed to Step 2.
           - If No, then no, there is no H-back.
2.) Has this person gone into motion?
           - No. They are still like the statue of David. The Second Tight End is being used as a TE.
           - Yes. Bingo, this is an H-Back Usage.

Still, the original post correctly described an increased reliance on the H-Back. Given Roushar's success with it late in the season and the staff's penchant for picking up 6'6" 240 lb TE's out of high school, I don't see this going away. The mismatch created by putting a 6'5" 250 lb TE out in the slot a second before the snap is going to occasionally give any defense a hard time. Next week, I'll be doing a film review of the Outback Bowl, I suspect what we'll find is that Linthicum started getting used more as an H-Back as part of the Second Half Adjustments.

To me this raises the question of why Paul Chryst(one of CFB's most widely regarded minds as an OC) and Dan Roushar(the most reviled MSU Coordinator since Narduzzi in 2009 LOLOLOLOL) are two of the only people using this position when it allows the type of flexibility it does.  I'm not saying that Roushar == Chryst, just an observation.

MSU Football Graduation Chart

Yesterday at the Only Colors, I did a very loose projection of two-deeps for the next four years on Offense and Defense. Obviously anything much beyond 2012 is pretty speculative and anything beyond 2013 is the stuff that involves Ouiji boards. Something a hair more concrete and infinitely less fun is a projected graduation chart. The only real wiggle room here is what recruits are not accounted for in the 2012 class that will commit in the upcoming weeks and of them who redshirts in 2012 and who goes out and lays out their competition in Spartan fashion.

So without further adieu, the Graduation Chart:

Apologies for the small print, getting this all to fit on one page sucked real hard.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Week in Review for January 19th, 2012

MSU Football News

Recruiting Updates(Since Yesterday) - This is the time of year where you could write a recruiting update everyday and still not cross over into creeper territory of following people around. Earlier today, Matt Dorsey tweeted that Wisconsin Offensive Tackle Prospect Kyle Dodson will be on campus for an official visit. Dodson's offer sheet is bananas. If he actually shows this weekend(always a concern with a high profile potential decommitment) I'd put the odds at better than 50/50 he ends up in green and white. You don't take an official at the 11th hour without being very serious in doing so. Also, per Matt Dorsey's twitter, DT prospect Terrell Jackson has moved his visit to the weekend of the 27th. There is additional recruiting chatter, but the majority is speculative still. Perhaps more firms up over the weekend.

I always wanted to do that...
- Earlier this week, Hondo posted a story that Pat Narduzzi turned down a job offer to be the Defensive Coordinator at Tennessee. With all due respect to Hondo, I find this very difficult to believe because 1.) Hondo is the only one reporting it that isn't originating the story from spartannation.com. 2.) A million dollars is a lot of money, do you know what you can do with a million dollars? 3.) Most importantly, if someone offers you a million dollars, I think you go interview for the job, even if you have no intention of taking it.

In related and conspiratorial news, Narduzzi after deciding to stay did receive a raise, although to my knowledge that amount has not been made public. Another reason to stay may in fact be that the money might not be that big a jump. But honestly it's that UT is a trainwreck under Dooley and are hoping Narduzzi could save a sinking ship.

Senior/Shrine Bowl Practices

B.J. Cunningham - "Cunningham's route-running was also much better than anticipated. He lacks classic foot speed and does not display a deep burst, but showed enough skill to cause NFL decision-makers to believe he'll be a solid third receiver." He plays in the East-West Shrine Game on Saturday at 4p on NFL Network

Keith Nichol - "Nichol is pretty quick in and out of breaks, but he's had a lot of drops in the first two days of practice.He has soft hands when it comes to the deep ball and he judges it in the air pretty well, but on underneath passes with velocity he lets it go through his hands far too often." He's practicing for the NFLPA bowl, which apparently is not happening? There are no NFL scouts at his practice although CFL and UFL scouts are in attendance, so...? If he works on his catching no one might know he's been letting some passes go?

Or this?

Kirk Cousins, Brian Linthicum, Trenton Robinson - These three guys will play in the Senior Bowl on 1/28. "This is a great chance for me to compete against the best guys in the country," Cousins said. "I'm excited to get to prove myself all over again."Expect to hear more on this next week.

MSU Men's Hoops

A pox upon our house apparently? Honestly, 15-4 is pretty damn good considering how new this team is and as Chris Vannini writes "It's pretty hard to get a road win in the Big Ten." Also on his blog, you can vote for the most improved player on the 2011-2012 Men's team, it's currently a two-horse race between Nix and Thornton.

The next couple of games will be critical for defining the rest of the season, while Pete of the Only Colors explains that  "This isn't a real bad loss, except it was to our rival and hurt like hell." Michigan is a good team now and there's no shame in losing. Still, Mike of the Little Brother Blog writes "The Spartans Need Their Swagger, Toughness Back" With Purdue coming to town at 14-5, he's absolutely right. If the men drop three in a row this golden start to a season where not much was expected is going to start looking much less impressive.

MSU Women's Hoops

The Lady Spartans lost a tough one to Ohio State this past weekend 64-56. They fell to 12-6 and (4-1) in the Big Ten. They take on Minnesota(10-9)(2-3) tonight and Purdue(15-3)(5-0) on Monday. With an RPI of 78 they need to need to have a strong finish to make the tourney this spring.

MSU Hockey 

MSU Hockey had an Overtime win and a Win over Northern Michigan this past weekend. They improved to 12-9-3 on the season and their rating bounced up to 16th overall. They take on 19th ranked Lake Superior State on Friday and Saturday night at Munn. As I said last week Anastos' improvement of the Hockey team would be one of the biggest stories in college sports of College Hockey was a sport people got excited about.

Have a good weekend everyone!