It’s no secret that the 2022 football season was a disappointing one for Michigan State. The Spartans look to vastly improve from their 5-7 record from the previous season with the new additions made over the offseason. Along with some of the players that are trying to earn spots in the starting lineup. Let’s dive into the things that MSU football fans should look out for if they’re tuning in for the Spartan Football Kickoff.
format of Spartan Football Kickoff
Let’s make it clear that this isn’t the normal spring game format that you might be used to seeing other schools do. The last actual MSU spring game happened when Mark Dantonio was head coach of the program. Mel Tucker has made it clear not to expect that normal game format and explained it as an uptempo practice that includes some “11-on-11 work.” Expect to see the team stretch together then break off into position groups scattered around the field. Then, near the end, there will be those quick plays of action with offense against defense.
Battles to Watch
This is obviously the biggest position battle that everyone is tuning in for. To make this completely clear, this is an open battle that Payton Thorne, Katin Houser, and Noah Kim all have chances to win.
It wasn’t a secret that Thorne wasn’t the same guy that MSU had grown accustomed to in 2021. It seemed like many times Thorne was struggling to follow through and finish on his front foot, with a lot of his throws going high. If he is the guy to win the job, then MSU fans will fully know that he deserved it and has also gotten much better with heavy competition backing him up. It was Thorne who won the competition going into 2021 against Anthony Russo, so we’ll see if he can do it once again.
The Redshirt Freshman is 6-3 and 213 pounds from Anaheim, California, and is the guy most MSU fans want to win this job. His upside as a kid with a big arm and a high ceiling coming in as a high-profile 4-star recruit makes it hard for MSU fans not to want him to win this job. Even if the Spartans struggle this season, it adds something that they can constantly tune in to watch. This is the guy I think ultimately wins the job and could add a lot of upside to this team.
The now-Redshirt Junior made appearances in four games and was 14 of 19 passing for 174 yards and three touchdowns. This is the wild card of the battle and probably the least likely to win it. The 6-2, 185-pound quarterback is looking to shock the Spartan nation with the opportunity to start the 2023 season. In the limited time he played, it was very efficient work from the Redshirt sophomore, but he doesn’t possess the same ceiling as Houser.
This is a battle that should be won by Junior Nathan Carter, who is a 5-10, 190-pound transfer from UConn. He only played four games before he suffered a shoulder injury to end his season. During that time, Carter led UConn with 405 yards on 65 carries, which is averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He can be a part of the passing game as well, with five catches for 39 yards. Jalen Berger is back too, and he’s expected to get a handful of carries too. Jaren Mangham is a 6-2, 230-pound transfer from South Florida and the older brother of MSU safety Jaden Mangham. All three are in the battle, but Carter should be the best option of the three.
This time last year, Michigan State only had four offensive linemen who were healthy. This position group has been a major struggle for the Spartans for a while due to health and skill. Coach Kap has been recruiting hard in this department and has been really impressed by the progress made here. Keyshawn Blackstock is definitely someone to keep an eye on when it comes to the right side of the line. He was the best JUCO O-line transfer from this offseason, and now MSU will look to put him in a big role. With some of the guys like freshman Cole Dellinger looking to earn playing time, it should be interesting to see the competition on Saturday.
For defense, there are various battles around the field to look out for. MSU is confident in their front seven with the names of Jacoby Windmon, Cal Halladay, and Kris Bogle returning. Along with transfers, Tunmise Adeleye and Ken Talley make their first appearances at Spartan Stadium. The secondary has been a struggle point under Coach Tucker as well, but with newcomers like freshman Chance Rucker fighting for playing time, things could get really interesting.
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