Last year around this time, Michigan State football was going into spring practice off the high of an 11-win season that included a win over rival Michigan and concluded with a Peach Bowl victory over Pittsburgh. This upcoming season however, expectations have simmered.
The team finished with just five wins last season, one shy of a bowl berth. Leaders of the program know that record isn’t good enough and have come into spring camp looking to get back to where they once were.
“I think it's a different mindset,” redshirt junior linebacker Cal Haladay said. “We came into the spring ready to go. We want to get back to work. I don’t want to be that person at home that watches everybody else play at the end of the season.”
After witnessing a near Heisman Trophy-level season from Kenneth Walker III and a regular season passing touchdown record performance by redshirt senior quarterback Payton Thorne two years ago, many thought that the offense last year would at least keep pace with the previous season, but instead the unit took a major step back. While the struggles were not what fans grew accustomed to based off the prior season, the lack of depth on the offensive line played a part in the overall offensive malfeasances.
Redshirt senior center Nick Samac, who chose to return to the Spartans for a final season, said that it feels different with new pieces joining the fold.
“Because we had seven lineman last year it was a little more survival mode,” Samac said. “But this year we have a lot of the key pieces that we need and everyone's excited to get to work and work together. We're in a positive mindset and everyone's ready to go.”
While many have been focusing on what happened last year, Thorne said that this year is a clean slate even though he is keeping in mind what happened in his second full season as the starting quarterback.
“We have a new team,” Thorne said. “This team is 0-0 and we're moving forward, but for the guys that were here and for me personally, we got a chip on our shoulder and we do have some improvement. You got to prove to yourself and then everybody else. Just coming into work every day and ramping things up even more. You can't expect good results from the same stuff.”
NFL Draft participant Jayden Reed was a big reason why MSU’s offense flourished in 2021. Last season, injuries kept him from producing at his highest level. Now, after losing the dynamic playmaker to the NFL Draft, redshirt wide receiver Tre Mosley is now the “OG” of the unit. Mosley said that while last season his team did not perform to the best of their capabilities, some good did come out of the experience.
“We've seen the highs and we've seen the lows,” Mosley said. “We know what it takes to get back to where we want to go and do more. So from the oldest guy on the team to the youngest guys that just walked in the door, we need to all get on the same page throughout these next few weeks so that we can take the necessary steps that we need as a team to be successful.”