Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Offense smiling; time to expect changes

August 30, 2001
Sophomore quarterback Jeff Smoker gets sacked by Ohio State defensive end Brent Johnson last season. This season, Smoker said fans can expect less sacks and more offensive options —

The specifics of MSU’s new offense have been kept top secret by the coaching staff, but it’s no surprise to many that changes are on the way.

Come Sept. 8 against Central Michigan, fans can expect a more diverse attack, with quicker pass plays and more run options.

“There’s a lot of different sets,” said wide receiver Herb Haygood of the new scheme. “No team will be able to just come out there and predict what we’re going to run. We’re moving a lot of people around this year, and it really should help.”

When asked about MSU’s new plans to put points on the board, many players have responded with smiles and encouraging words.

“It’s the offense’s versatility that has produced such excitement,” said sophomore quarterback Jeff Smoker. He credits offensive coordinator Morris Watts for implementing a more diverse attack.

“I think coach (Watts) has taken things from a lot of college and pro offenses all around, and put it all together the way he wants it,” Smoker said. “It’s a lot similar to the offense I ran in high school.”

Some of the things Smoker was accustomed to at Manheim Central High School in Pennsylvania include more draw plays and formations from the shotgun.

Smoker believes the new offense could resemble Purdue’s version of “basketball on grass” - a passing-rich attack that makes big, speedy receivers drool. Or it could look more like Northwestern’s hurry-up spread offense, he said.

MSU’s new tandem of 6-foot-4 receivers in Charles Rogers and B.J. Lovett and a more athletic offensive line - anchored by sophomore center Brian Ottney - should buy more time for Smoker and senior Ryan Van Dyke to make plays, Watts said.

“We’re trying to do a lot of things to alleviate pressure and do things so we don’t have that same number of sacks as last year,” said Watts, of the 43 beatings Spartan quarterbacks took in 2000. “Those were killers.”

Although it’s certain MSU will have either Smoker or Van Dyke take the first snap against CMU, the time frame for a final call is still up in the air.

But Watts expects a decision quickly.

“We need to move on,” Watts said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll play both guys in the game no matter who’s the starter because that’s the best thing to do for our program.”

Watts said both Smoker and Van Dyke took a good portion of sacks last year because they waited too long in the pocket for open receivers.

Both have done a better job this preseason of recognizing when to throw the ball away, he said.

Smoker and Van Dyke have still made it a tough race for the positions, even though a decision expected to be made by Saturday or early next week, Watts.

“Within a short time we’ll be ready to make a decision,” Watts said. “They both have had a good preseason, but they both have things I think they need to improve on in the next week and a half.”

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