Monday, November 29, 2021

Spartans rally troops for season opener

September 7, 2001
Junior safety Richard Bryce (29), right, rushes freshman tight end Ryan Woods (89) on Monday during football practice outside of the Duffy Daugherty Football Building. —

When the MSU football team opens its 105th varsity season at 1 p.m. Saturday in Spartan Stadium against Central Michigan, it will be the fifth round of battle U.S. 127.

And it will also bring one sidelined player back onto the starting roster.

Senior tight end Chris Baker will start in his 36th consecutive game after recovering from torn cartilage in his left knee, assistant athletics director John Lewandowski said Thursday night.

“Unless there’s some setback before pregame warm-ups we do anticipate him starting,” Lewandowski said.

Junior tailback T.J. Duckett said he is glad last year’s honorable mention All-Big Ten pick is back.

“We’re glad to have him part of our offense again,” Duckett said. “He adds experience on the line, as far as blocking and making plays.”

The return of Baker - who had 33 receptions for 461 yards in 2000 - solidifies the tight end position. But there is still at least one uncertainty on the team.

The race between kickers, senior David Schaefer and sophomore Michael Servis, which began last spring, has been in a dead heat throughout preseason camp.

MSU’s depth chart released Thursday lists Schaefer in charge of field goals and Servis responsible for kickoffs.

But neither player has been notified officially of who will be handling what duties for Saturday’s game. It’s possible that both could see action and share duties.

Schaefer, MSU’s most experienced kicker, saw action in all 11 games last season and was the team’s leading scorer with 51 points. Servis has yet to see game action.

“It makes you work hard every day,” said Schaefer of the competition with Servis. “You never know, you could have a bad day and be out of the race. It puts you in a situation where you want to work hard because you could have something to look forward to.”

A starter might not be named until hours, maybe even minutes before kickoff, Schaefer said. He said he expects a starter for the entire season will probably be decided after the first couple of games.

“I remember a couple of years ago, I was told (about starting) as we were running out on the field,” Schaefer said.

MSU has won the last two meetings with CMU in 1993 and 1998, in the tied 2-2 series. The Spartans destroyed the Chippewas 38-7 in their last meeting.

CMU had solid performances from quarterback Derrick Vickers and receiver Rob Turner in its 23-7 blowout against East Kentucky Aug. 30.

Vickers completed 16 of 29 passes for 195 yards and one touchdown, while Turner had six catches for 190 yards and a touchdown.

But it’s difficult to get an accurate assessment of CMU, since MSU hasn’t studied much tape on them, said sophomore quarterback Jeff Smoker, who will start Saturday.

“We’ve had a little bit (of tape), but a lot of it hasn’t been too clear or that good,” Smoker said. “They’ve changed their defense so you kind of have to anticipate how they’re going to play certain coverages because you’re not going to be able to set up everything they’re doing and have a mock game (in practice) with everything they’re going to do.”

Duckett, who has sat out numerous practices for precautionary reasons, expects to see plenty of action Saturday. He said he’s excited to finally get the season underway.

“We’ve all been sick of beating each other up in practice,” Duckett said. “I can’t wait since we haven’t had a real game since last November. We’re all excited about getting out there, making plays and seeing what we can do.”

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