Following in the footsteps of two All-Big Ten wide receivers B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin, the Michigan State wide receiver corps were under a microscope in 2012 – and it came with its share of struggles.
Wide receivers coach Terry Samuel said the expectations were tough to step into for a group of receivers that were young and inexperienced.
“You take a bunch of young guys, freshman and guys right out of high school and say learn the pro-style offense, which at this position is not easy,” Samuel said. “You have to have patience and these guy – once you get the frustration down – have been really good at learning the offense.
“Where they are now is light years beyond where we were at the start of last year.”
Now, the group has moved from young and inexperienced to ready to go with a good knowledge of the offense.
”All we talk about is making plays,” Samuel said. “It’s not learning the offense anymore. … If we make plays, this offense moves down the field and we put points on the scoreboard. That’s going to be a consistent theme for us. More production, make more plays.”
Junior DeAnthony Arnett also said now that it isn’t about learning the offense, it’s about getting into the end zone.
“It’s not the offense anymore, it’s not any of that,” he said. “We just have to go out there, run the right route, catch the ball and get in the end zone. It’s that simple. That’s really what it comes down to. The play is there, so make it and get in the end zone.”
Junior Tony Lippett agreed that the goal is to make the plays and that they worked hard this summer to be ready when they hit the field.
“We put in a lot of work this summer as far as catching and route running,” Lippett said. We practice against the great corners we have on our team, so we feel pretty confident. We just have to go out there and get it done.”
Sophomore Aaron Burbridge said the wide receivers have been spending more time watching film, while he also has spent time learning from Bennie Fowler – whom he called “the leader of the receivers.”
He also said he has improved in his first full offseason at MSU.
“I worked hard this offseason,” Burbridge said. “I know what we have to do to be where we want to be and I’m getting better with my football IQ and everything, so just getting better.”
Burbridge said now the Spartans should be good offensively, especially given the experience at wide receiver.
”I think we are going to be throwing the ball a lot more,” he said. “We have a lot of experience at receiver. Last year, it was a lot of guys’ first time getting on the field, now we know what we are doing, so we are good and should be able to make plays.”
With the plays out there to be made and the knowledge of the offense down pat, Arnett said the Spartans are set to change perception after the criticism last season.
“We were under a lot of scrutiny last year, everyone knows that,” Arnett said. “We were under a lot. We dropped a lot, 66 or something, most in the country.
”We don’t want that to be Michigan State. We want to be the best team in the Big Ten. This year, we want to go out there and ball out.”