Friday, September 18, 2009

A spartan Preview | by Pat

Both the Spartans and Irish are reeling a bit after surprising losses to schools from Michigan. How is MSU recovering from last Saturday's loss to Central Michigan?

First up, a players only meeting the day after the game.

"It wasn't a panic thing. Obviously, we were shocked after the game. It was dead silent in the locker room and we just wanted to bring everybody in and get everybody on the same page and keep everybody together so we can get ready for Notre Dame."
Next up, circle the wagons and keep the media out.
Dantonio also is taking on a bunker mentality typical of Notre Dame week. The first part of practice, normally open to the media, is closed and only selected players will be available for interviews
At the same time, work on the confidence of your top corner.
If there's one thing the Spartans really need, it's a loss of memory and return of confidence for junior cornerback Chris L. Rucker. Rucker was supposed to be this team's best cover man, but he has been victimized often in two games.

Rucker gave up a pair of deep completions to CMU star Bryan Anderson, then a pair of key third-down catches in the fourth quarter.

Rucker was not made available for interviews this week, but his coaches know the 6-foot-2 corner's play will be pivotal Saturday. Clausen loves throwing jump balls downfield for his guys to snatch.
Then, review the depth chart, which is still in flux at...

Cousins and fellow quarterback Keith Nichol have had their patience tested this fall because of the unresolved competition for the job. This is the third straight week the depth chart read "Kirk Cousins OR Keith Nichol" as the starter, a move that fuels only more ambiguity.

Nichol didn't play in the second half against the Chippewas and can prepare only like he's not out of the running to at least share some snaps.

"If you're not sure what is going to happen, you normally just go with whoever is in there at the moment,' said Nichol, who thought he would return in the second half.
Running Back:
Redshirt freshman Caulton Ray carried the bulk Saturday for the second straight week, with 51 yards on 16 rushes and a 1-yard touchdown on the MSU's opening drive. True freshman Larry Caper had 33 yards on six carries, 16 of them coming on the Spartans' longest run of the day.

True freshman Edwin Baker appears to have big-play speed at running back, but he did not play Saturday. Dantonio said Baker was nursing a sore knee and did not say whether he can play at Notre Dame. For now, it appears that Ray will continue to be the premier back, with Caper and Baker as his support staff.
Offensive Line:
Junior right guard J'Michael Deane has gone from backup, to starter, to injured in just two weeks. He'll likely not play Saturday, offensive line coach Dan Roushar said Thursday. If that is the case, sophomore Jared McGaha could be back in the lineup at right guard - unless of course there's more shuffling.

Junior Bowling Green transfer D.J. Young has seen time at tackle, but was limited against Central Michigan due to MSU having just three offensive possessions in the second half.

The biggest uncertainty has come at center where senior Joel Nitchman has been out with a knee injury, replaced by junior John Stipek, a former defensive end. Though Roushar and head coach Mark Dantonio complimented Stipek's performance Saturday, Nitchman's 22 career starts are impossible to replace.
Defensive Line:
The Michigan State defense has a new look on third down this season, with senior linebacker Adam Decker lining up at defensive end, alongside walk-on Johnathan Strayhorn at nose tackle.

That may not last long however, if MSU can't get more pressure on the quarterback in third-and-long situations."Strayhorn's done a nice job in there," defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said.

"Decker was an average pass rusher last week and he's gotta get better or he'll be replaced. We don't anticipate anybody that hasn't played playing this weekend, but you never know, things happen."
Free safety Trenton Robinson, a sophomore from Bay City, is expected to get his first career start Saturday at Notre Dame.

"I think he deserves that opportunity," Dantonio said during his weekly press conference.

Robinson is listed at first-string free safety on the team's depth chart over (previous starter) Danny Fortener and Kendell Davis-Clark.
Due to injuries and production on the field, it sure seems like the Spartan coaching staff have a lot of questions marks across the depth chart. But they have the luxury of perhaps the best linebacker corp that ND will face this season, a solid group of receivers, and the knowledge they have won six straight at Notre Dame Stadium. It's pretty obvious that Dantonio will challenge his team to come out swinging at ND and use this game to springboard to a strong rest of the season. ND's response will go a long way to predicting how the rest of the Irish season will unfold.