Second scrimmage likely to solidify key positions for Spartans
No eyes from the public or media will be on MSU players tomorrow at their second preseason scrimmage.
But what goes down behind closed doors Saturday likely will play a large role in determining who fans lay eyes on during the season at key positions.
“I don’t know if it’s an end-all, but I think we need to start making some decisions at quarterback and other places, too,” co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Dave Warner said.The time for competition and evaluation among quarterbacks Andrew Maxwell, a senior, sophomore Connor Cook and redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor is growing thin with the Aug. 30 season opener looming.
The same goes for the stable of running backs looking to succeed workhorse Le’Veon Bell, which includes redshirt freshman Riley Bullough, juniors Nick Hill and Jeremy Langford, and true freshmen Gerald Holmes and Delton Williams.
There are two weeks until the start of the season, and soon head coach Mark Dantonio will have to whittle down the first-team reps to the guys he expects to play most on Saturdays. Tomorrow’s scrimmage should help shape who will get those reps heading into the first game against Western Michigan.
“I think you make decisions after the scrimmage somewhat,” Dantonio said. “But then also, you let things play out through the week next week a little bit. … But I think you can get an idea of ‘OK, these are the guys that we’re going to have (to) work with,’ especially young players who haven’t had an opportunity as much.”
The quarterback situation has been unsettled since spring, when Maxwell and Cook were seen as the only competitors in the race, but neither performed well enough to seize the job outright. O’Connor has been able to keep himself in contention, though, with solid play throughout camp.Since tomorrow’s scrimmage is closed, the only performance indicators will be statistics released by MSU afterward.
“Basically all three of those guys are good players,” Dantonio said of the passers. “… They’ve all done some good things, so we’ll see how it all shakes out. But obviously, this scrimmage is a big scrimmage.”
In the backfield, the arrival of three freshmen running backs in fall camp threw a wrench in the pecking order. One of the rookies, R.J. Shelton, was out of the mix rather quickly after being converted to wide receiver a few days into camp.
Behind Bullough, the current starter, Holmes and Williams seem to be making a push for carries and drew praise from Dantonio on Friday, noting the pair has “Le’Veon Bell-type ability.”“But they need to be more consistent,” Dantonio followed up. “Those other guys are who they are, and have been good as well.” The battle under center is exponentially more vital to the Spartans’ success in 2013 than at running back, but MSU hopes there’s more clarity across the board after tomorrow.