Slowly but surely, Cole Chewins is regaining strength and health. His return to the offensive line might be yet another sign that this Spartan team is closer to reaching its potential than some may think.
The struggles along the offensive line and the way those struggles have led to a running game that hasn’t been what Michigan State has needed might not be all that complicated.
The Experts out there have locked themselves in closets and tried to break down hours and hours of film in their attempts to solve the mystery of the relatively weak Spartan rushing attack.
Here’s the answer to all of the questions:
Guys are hurt.
An additional answer:
The most important guy has been hurt.
Injuries can’t ever be an excuse but there is a big difference between an “excuse” and an “explanation.”
Perhaps Cole Chewins, Michigan State’s junior monster left tackle who goes 6’8″ and 290 pounds and had started 16 straight games prior to an injury that has kept him off the field, is the best example of how an injury can impact the entire unit and, therefore, the entire vibe of the entire team.
Here’s a revealing quote from offensive line coach Mark Staten –
“The thing with Cole, he’s still trying to regain the strength that he lost from being out the spring and then the majority of the fall. He’s just trying to get that back. (We’re) trying to ease him back out there and not make anything that’s too harmful for him or too harmful for the team. With him not being out there, that’s our bell cow.”
It’s that last line – “that’s our bell cow.”
I haven’t ever really understood what the metaphor of “bell cow” has meant and I’m not even sure if the term “bell cow” even is a recognized metaphor at all.
But I understand what Staten is trying to say.
Cole Chewins is a hell of a good football player and his absence has had a ripple effect on the whole unit and, therefore, his absence has had a ripple effect on the entire offense.
And so, the absence of Cole Chewins has had as much to do with the Spartans’ inability to find a cohesion and a rhythm along the offensive line as anything else.
Couple that with the early challenge of replacing Brian Allen at center and it isn’t all that confusing or strange to consider the challenges the offensive line has faced through four games.
It appears as though Chewins is about ready to get back onto the field and be Cole Chewins.
We’ve talked about how the running game – and overall offensive scheme – could benefit from the allowance of more tuck-and-run situations for Brian Lewerke.
Might the offense feel rejuvenated if Lewerke makes a quick decision – like he did all last year – to gain seven or eight or even fifteen yards on a tuck-and-run more often than he has so far this season AND if the return of Cole Chewins allows the running game to begin to understand that it can reach its potential?
How much Cole Chewins is able to play this Saturday remains to be seen.
He didn’t play at all in the season opener against Utah State.
He was on the field for one play against Arizona State.
He’s been out there for a few plays here and there over the last couple of weeks but it’s sounding like he might be ready to return to anchoring the offensive line.
If Chewins is able to get back to being Cole Chewins, the season might take on an entirely different feel.
This could be yet another example of how Michigan State has a track record of working, tweaking, searching, and developing all season, game by game, and finding the ways to improve slowly but surely.
A victory against Northwestern this Saturday at Spartan Stadium, all of a sudden, would get the Spartans to 4-1 and 2-0 in the Big Ten.
If that record comes with a few key elements of this team beginning to take shape, Spartan fans should be ready for a potentially exciting October.
First things first – let’s see if Cole Chewins can contribute this Saturday in a way that can give everyone reason to think that he’s back and ready to be a powerful part of the Spartan attack.