Spartan Rush Must Pray At The Altar Of Al Davis

Spartan Rush Must Pray At The Altar Of Al Davis

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Spartan Rush Must Pray At The Altar Of Al Davis

Kenny Willekes and his pals on the edge of the Spartan defensive line have to understand that Al Davis was no dummy.

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By now, the story is well known among Spartan fans – and while we’ve touched on it throughout the weeks leading up to the season, it warrants more attention.

Part of the reason for the 3-9 debacle of 2016 was an inability to follow the axiom made famous by none other than Al Davis –

If Al Davis makes you laugh, you’re not alone since he was as much of a cartoon character as he was a lifelong maverick and the man responsible for creating the image that has made the Oakland Raiders what they are (or, at least what they once were).

If you don’t know who Al Davis is because you think that the world started when Mark Zuckerberg created Facepage, I can’t help you.

In 2016, after a prolific run from 2013 through 2015 that featured two Big Ten Championships, a Rose Bowl victory, a Cotton Bowl victory, regular beat downs of rivals, and a trip to the College Football Playoff, the Spartans were inept in the trenches both offensively and, perhaps more importantly, defensively.

The sack total for the 2015 Big Ten Champion/CFP Spartans was 37 – that was good for third place in the Big Ten.

In 2016, that total plummeted, of course, to a measly 11 sacks – “good” for last in the Big Ten.

What doesn’t get much attention when there is focus on the anemic pass rush of 2016 is the separation from the next worst team in the Big Ten.

Not only were the Spartans last with 11 sacks – the next worst teams were Rutgers and Purdue who each finished the season with 21 sacks.

So, it’s not as if Michigan State had company in the sack cellar in 2016.

That total would not have made Al Davis happy.

Then, of course, came the dramatic turnaround of 2017.

One key component – obviously, the increase in sacks.

Last season, Kenny Willekes became the latest Spartan to emerge from the basement and become a budding star by instilling a newfound appreciation for Al Davis.

It’s good enough that it should be embedded in this thing twice –

Willekes racked up seven sacks of his own and the Spartans went from 11 in 2016 to 28 in 2017.

That total – 28 – was nice and it suggested that Michigan State wasn’t afraid of the opponents’ offensive backfield.

But that total still was only good for 9th in the Big Ten.

And the total would have left Al Davis less than satisfied.

To put Michigan State’s 2017 sack improvement into proper perspective – consider that Ohio State and UMAA finished first and second in the Big Ten with 45 and 42 sacks, respectively.

Can Michigan State win the Big Ten Championship in 2018?

Can Michigan State get back to the College Football Playoff in 2018?

Yes – but, the gang of Spartans who will be opposite of Kenny Willekes on the defensive line have to, as a group, dream of Al Davis – a scary thought for sure – every night.

Here is Al Davis again in case you missed him up above –

Michigan State has reason to be cautiously optimistic about the talent and depth in the trenches on the defensive line.

Naquan Jones, Mike Panasiuk, Mufi Hill-Hunt, Gerald Owens, and Raequan Williams make up a pretty beefy and stellar band of monsters in the middle.

Dillon Alexander, Justice Alexander, Jack Camper, and Jacob Panasiuk are all going to be on the field at the defensive end spot.

As a group, can these guys make Al Davis proud?

Earlier this week, Mark Dantonio spoke of Jacob Panasiuk with the same smirk he once showed when he spoke of Marcus Rush and with the same smirk he showed when he spoke of Kenny Willekes a year ago.

That smirk doesn’t guarantee anything – but it doesn’t make me sad.

Jack Camper got a mention from Dantonio moments before he let the Panasiuk smirk go public – the redshirt freshman has some size at 6’4″, 240 pounds and it’s never bad news when the head coach alludes to a guy playing well.

Dillon Alexander – 6’4, 235 pounds – has gone from walk-on to two-time letter winner with nine tackles in the 14 games in which he’s appeared.

He was part of the scotch-tape-and-glue unit that helped the program climb back from the abyss following all of the departures after the 2016 season.

Dillon Alexander can play.

Justice Alexander is a question mark – he hasn’t seen much action but he’s got size.

At 6’5″ and 257 pounds, can Justice Alexander run in and out and provide reps to create a never-ending rotation of guys who are committed to making Al Davis look down (or up) on the Spartans and smile?

Mission: make Al Davis so proud that he trades in his White, Silver & Black leisure suit for a Green & White one –

 

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