Camp Concludes - Are The Spartans Prepared For Kickoff?

Camp Concludes - Are The Spartans Prepared For Kickoff?

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Camp Concludes - Are The Spartans Prepared For Kickoff?

Michigan State has concluded its preseason camp. The Spartans will have a few very well-earned days off before preparation for Utah State begins on Sunday. Here’s a quick look at the most important takeaways from August.

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The Spartans made it.

They worked and fought through the dog days of training camp and are now moving into their actual homes where they’ll be able to sleep in beds that are not suited for gremlins (or, more accurately, regular students who aren’t massive and tall and humongous and can’t fit into a standard-issue Michigan State University dorm bed that was practically too small for me 28 years ago).

What were the “big issues” as these Spartans started this preseason camp?

In no particular order, here are five “biggies” that seemed to be priorities (understanding, too, that there are plenty of others):

  • Who will take over for Brian Allen at center?
  • Who will fill the void left by Chris Frey at the money linebacker spot?
  • Can the Spartans find a way to create more push on the defensive edge opposite of Kenny Willekes?
  • Is the defensive secondary ready to reclaim “No Fly Zone” status?
  • Can the Spartans stay healthy and head into the season with all guns fully loaded?

One by one, let’s go through the biggies.

Who will take over for Brian Allen at center?

There was a fair amount of talk that Brian Allen’s younger brother – the latest Allen monster to become a Spartan, Matt – would step in and take over the role that his brother left open.

While it’s a certainty that Matt Allen will become just another Allen to star and lead for this program, Mark Dantonio’s announcement that junior Tyler Higby has the edge at center sent a good, strong message that the center spot is in good hands.

Dantonio has said – multiple times – that Matt Allen will “push” at center and will see plenty of action this season.

This has turned into a good development since Higby is a proven commodity for the Spartans, is experienced, talented, and ready to take the reigns in the middle of a line that has the potential to be a strength for this team.

Let’s say this out loud, too – Higby must feel good about the way Dantonio has let it be known that he’s the leader at the position.

That’s only going to motivate Higby, make him feel like he’s been given a pat on the back for the work he’s done thus far, and make him feel like he has the confidence of the coaching staff and his teammates.

Let’s consider that this “big issue” is being handled quite well as the season is about to start.

Who will fill the void left by Chris Frey at the money linebacker spot?

Like the void left by Brian Allen, the void at money linebacker left by Frey’s departure has as much to do with leadership as it has to do with actual linebacker play.

And Michigan State appears to have a handful of studs that are ready to step in and play, lead, and win.

“There are a lot of ways we can go with the linebackers.  I think it’s still up in the air where we go with money linebacker, “said Dantonio as camp broke.

Junior Tyriq Thompson and sophomore Brandon Randle both appear ready to play winning football at the position.

They’re both experienced and have the speed to drop back into coverage while also providing power in the defense’s efforts to build on last year’s #2 ranked rushing defense in the nation.

Prediction – Tyriq Thompson gets the “start” next Friday night but Randle and Thompson will rotate all game and all season at the position and the Spartans will more than fill Frey’s on-the-field void.

Can the Spartans find a way to create more push on the defensive edge opposite Kenny Willekes?

Short answer – yes.

I asked Dantonio about the Panasiuk brothers at Big Ten Media Days and Dantonio lit up like a Christmas tree when he said that they’re both looking good.

Then, a week or so ago, as the gaggle was asking Dantonio about the “other” defensive end spot, a few names were mentioned by folks and Dantonio, with the smirk we referenced when we alluded to this before, said, “Panasiuk.”

Nobody really reacted when he said that.

So, Dantonio said, “Jacob Panasiuk.”

That was all he said.

Yet, it was accompanied by a smirk.

That made it official – Dantonio believes Panasiuk is ready to explode, complement Kenny Willekes, and get to the quarterback.

Jack Camper is the other development over on that end of the defense.

In that same session when Dantonio’s smirk made Panasiuk’s arrival official, he referred to Jack Camper a time or two.

And reports have referred to Camper’s continued development.

A year ago, nobody really knew if Kenny Willekes was scotch tape or a true star in the making.

The rest of the Big Ten wishes Willekes was scotch tape.

Panasiuk and Camper are next to show that they’re not scotch tape.

Is the secondary of the defense ready to reclaim “No Fly Zone” status?

It’s never good news when a player – particularly a guy who everyone recognizes is a star – goes down with an injury right at the start of preseason camp.

However, when the news broke that Josiah Scott would be out for two months, that immediately ratcheted up the intensity, the focus, and the determination on the part of every guy wanting to fill that spot.

As preseason camp concludes, Dantonio is more than confident in the ability of Josh Butler to step right in and play winning football.

Additionally, redshirt freshman Shakur Brown and true freshman Kalon Gervin will see plenty of action and appear ready.

The secondary was deep before Scott’s injury.

It remains deep – and it remains filled with speed, strength, cover-ability, and fearlessness required to continue to shut down opposing rushing attacks.

Can this secondary reclaim “No Fly Status?”

Yes, it can.

And while Scott rehabs, the entire unit will only strengthen.

Can the Spartans stay healthy and head into the season with all guns fully loaded?

Scott’s injury – right out of the gate – was, at the time, a bit of a scary bit of bad karma.

However, it turns out that the Spartans have managed to make it through preseason camp without any other apparent injuries.

Scott will certainly be missed – he’ll be back around the time that the Big Ten schedule kicks off.

But, as referenced above, the secondary will adjust and may even benefit from the need to strengthen itself without Scott out there.

Other than that, the team is healthy.

I don’t think Brian Lewerke even suffered a paper cut this month.

Someone that’s really well-connected told me that LJ Scott had a bout with diarrhea two weeks ago but that seemed to work itself out after LJ ate several bowls of cereal high in fiber.

Joe Bachie sneezed a couple of times last week.

And another really well-connected source told me that Cody White got stung by a bee two weeks ago.

Other than these unsubstantiated reports, it seems like Michigan State came out of preseason camp without any threatening injuries or general health issues.

One week from tonight, the season will be here and we will be able to move beyond all of the speculative talk and get to the four-month discussions, debates, and opinions related to Michigan State’s drive for a Big Ten Championship – and more….

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