Many may not have expected Michigan State to release an air attack during the first jersey scrimmage of the spring. However, Mark Dantonio had no problem allowing his quarterbacks to throw 55 passes on the day for 401 yards and four touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Andrew Maxwell took a step forward to holding onto his starting job after the offense got off to a slow start going 17-of-27 day for 187 yards and three touchdowns, including two connections with Keith Mumphery.
Sophomore quarterback Connor Cook showed signs of continuing his growth by going 11-of-18 for 73 yards but did throw an interception.
After taking a red-shirt in the fall, Tyler O’Connor was impressive going 6-of-10 for 141 yards and one touchdown on a 76-yard strike to A.J. Troup. O’Connor also connected with another red-shirt freshman Monty Madaris for a 55-yard completion.
While the passing game enjoyed a big day, the running game saw the Spartans use three tailbacks in Nick Hill, Jeremy Langford and Nick Tompkins. However, no stats were released on the trios 23 rushes and the fact Tompkins was stopped short of the end zone in a goal-line stand by the defense will have many wondering if the Spartans can find a solid replacement for the departed Le’Veon Bell this spring.
Dantonio continued to stress the pressure the staff has decided to apply against the quarterbacks this spring in an attempt to jump start their ability in pressure situations and knows his running attack needs to step up.
“The quarterbacks were live,” said Dantonio. “So we tried to create as many game-like situations as possible. Offensively, we’ve got to run the ball more effectively. Our defense is a little bit ahead (of the offense) in some ways.
We pressured the quarterback and did a lot of really good things, but towards the end, the offense did some good things and hit some big plays in 2-minute situations."
The defense saw several young Spartans step forward on the day as sophomores Trae Waynes (nine tackles) and Shilique Calhoun (two tackles for loss and 6-yard sack) led the way with red-shirt freshman Riley Bullough making the goal-line stop on Tompkins.
Knowing his defense gave up a couple of big plays, Dantonio came away feeling good about the overall performance of his defense.
“Trae Waynes is having a great spring,” said Dantonio. “He’s a guy who will be a fixture in our secondary for three more years. Max Bullough is in his fourth year in our system, so he knows the defense inside and out. Max does a great job of diagnosing things. Shilique Calhoun is a big, quick and physical defensive end, so he’s a playmaker for us. All three of those guys made plays today.
“Overall, our defense played extremely well throughout most of the scrimmage. We gave up a couple of big plays at the end of the game, and we simply can’t do that. As we saw last year, we must learn to close out games. We will play better in those game-ending situations.”
The Spartans will continue working towards the Green & White game over the next couple of weeks looking to answer several of the questions they came away with on Friday.